How Exercise Can Help Us Sleep Better –


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Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.

As a clinical psychologist and sleep researcher at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Kelly Glazer Baron frequently heard complaints from aggrieved patients about exercise. They would work out, they told her, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, but they would not sleep better that night.

Dr. Baron was surprised and perplexed. A fan of exercise for treating sleep problems, but also a scientist, she decided to examine more closely the day-to-day relationship between sweat and sleep.

What she and her colleagues found, according to a study published last week in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, is that the influence of daily exercise on sleep habits is more convoluted than many of us might expect and that, in the short term, sleep may have more of an impact on exercise than exercise has on sleep.

To reach that conclusion, Dr. Baron and her colleagues turned to data from a study of exercise and sleep originally published in 2010. For that experiment, researchers had gathered a small group of women (and one man) who had received diagnoses of insomnia. The volunteers were mostly in their 60s, and all were sedentary.

Then the researchers randomly assigned their volunteers either to remain inactive or to begin a moderate endurance exercise program, consisting of three or four 30-minute exercise sessions per week, generally on a stationary bicycle or treadmill, that were performed in the afternoon. This exercise program continued for 16 weeks.

At the end of that time, the volunteers in the exercise group were sleeping much more soundly than they had been at the start of the study. They slept, on average, about 45 minutes to an hour longer on most nights, waking up less often and reporting more vigor and less sleepiness.

But had the novice exercisers experienced immediate improvements in their sleep patterns, Dr. Baron wondered? And, on a day-to-day basis, had working out on any given day produced better sleep that night?

Boring deep into the data contained in the exercising group’s sleep diaries and other information for the new study, Dr. Baron discovered that the answer to both questions was a fairly resounding no. After the first two months of their exercise program, the exercising volunteers (all of them women) were sleeping no better than at the start of the study. Only after four months of the program had their insomnia improved.

They also rarely reported sleeping better on those nights when they had had an exercise session. And perhaps most telling, they almost always exercised for a shorter amount of time on the days after a poor night’s sleep.

In other words, sleeping badly tended to shorten the next day’s workout, while a full-length exercise session did not, in most cases, produce more and better sleep that night.

At first glance, these results might seem “a bit discouraging,” Dr. Baron said. They also would seem to be at odds with the earlier conclusion that four months of exercise improved insomniacs’ sleep patterns, as well as a wealth of other recent science that typically has found that regular exercise lengthens and deepens sleep.

But, Dr. Baron pointed out, most of these other studies employed volunteers without existing sleep problems. For them, exercise and sleep seem to have a relatively uncomplicated relationship. You work out, fatigue your body and mind, and sleep more soundly that night.

But people with insomnia and other sleep disturbances tend to be “neurologically different,” Dr. Baron said. “They have what we characterize as a hyper-arousal of the stress system,” she said. A single bout of exercise on any given day “is probably not enough to overcome that arousal,” she explained, and potentially could even exacerbate it, since exercise is itself a physical stressor.

Eventually, however, if the exercise program is maintained, Dr. Baron said, the workouts seem to start muting a person’s stress response. Her or his underlying physiological arousal is dialed down enough for sleep to arrive more readily, as it did in the original 2010 experiment.

Of course, both of these studies were small, involving fewer than a dozen exercising volunteers, all of them middle-aged or older women. “We think the findings would apply equally to men,” Dr. Baron said. But that idea has yet to be proven.

Likewise, it is impossible to know yet the sleep-related impacts of workouts of different types (like weight training), intensities or timing, including morning or late-evening sessions.

Still, the preliminary message of these findings is heartening. If you habitually experience insomnia and don’t currently exercise, Dr. Baron said, start. Don’t, however, expect that you will enjoy or even complete workouts that occur on the day after a broken night’s sleep, or that you will sleep better hours after you’ve exercised.

The process is more gradual and less immediately gratifying than the sleep-deprived might wish. But the benefits do develop. “It took four months” in the original study, Dr. Baron said, but at that point the exercising volunteers “were sleeping at least 45 minutes more a night.” “That’s huge, as good as or better” than most current treatment options for sleep disturbances, including drugs, she said.



3 organic super-vegetables that cost less than $2 | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Have you ever felt like you were on the right track with your diet, only to have someone completely derail your progress with a simple comment? It happens all the time. You may eat a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables… but someone asks you, are they organic? Locally-grown? Ugh.

So you do your best to adjust, adding more organic produce to your diet, and after just a few days, you realize that you’re going broke.

I’ve seen this rollercoaster ride so many times before, and it often ends almost exactly where it started. This person who was trying so hard before, now throws her hands up and says, “This just isn’t working.” All her progress goes out the window because she was made to feel like she had to spend her whole paycheck on food in order to be healthy. Well, that’s simply not the case. [12 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget]

Not all vegetables are expensive, but they’re also not created equal. For example, iceberg lettuce is inexpensive, but it contains less protein, fiber, calcium, folate and vitamin K per calorie than its pricier counterpart, romaine. If you look at the lettuces in terms of penny per nutrient, instead of penny per calorie, romaine is the clear winner.

And speaking of nutritional winners, a study published in the journal PLOS One in May reported two clear winners in the overall cost-per-nutrient category: potatoes and beans (beans are classified as a vegetable by the USDA). [13 Easy Kitchen Fixes that Can Help You Lose Weight]

Researchers used a combination of nutrient profiling methods and national average pricing to create an affordability index, which was used to examine the nutrients in 98 individual vegetables as well as five subgroups. The fact that potatoes come out on top is surprising to some, but potatoes are extremely rich in potassium, fiber, vitamin C and magnesium. And, they’re cheap too!

This report definitely sparked my interest because I think this is an important topic. So, I thought this might be a good time to review my personal favorite, budget-friendly organic vegetables that pack a healthy nutritional punch.

  1. Kale: This is one of the most nutrient-dense leafy greens you can get, and it’s cheap. The other day, I went to the grocery store just for some organic kale and I walked out with a big bunch. Guess how much I spent? It was well under two dollars, and I’d say I got more than my money’s worth. Just one cup of this raw leafy green has 206 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, and 134 percent of vitamin C.
  2. Green cabbage: At about $0.92 per pound, this organic vegetable is certainly affordable. But it’s also nutritious. One cup of raw green cabbage contains nearly a full day’s worth of vitamin K, and it has about half of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of fiber, and is loaded with antioxidants.
  3. Baby carrots: At about $1.75 per pound, organic baby carrots make for a nutritious and inexpensive snack. And eating one mere ounce, will give you 77 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A.

Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

[tag 3 organic super-vege]

Doctors prescribe fruits and vegetables instead of pills | MNN – Mother Nature Network

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

The Greek physician Hippocrates may have been way ahead of his time in extolling the health-giving virtues of a sensible diet. In an age of obesity and food deserts, examining the connection between our diets and our health has never been more important.

Fighting the food desert

But you can’t have a serious discussion about why we should eat more fruits and vegetables without also looking at the reasons why many of us do not.

Nowhere is this conversation more important than in poor communities, where fresh foods can be hard to come by, and where fast-food joints and convenience stores proliferate.

It’s for this reason that many programs are exploring ways to increase access to fresh, healthy and local foods – often finding ways to support farms and farmers markets in the process.

Farmers market vegetables

Prescribing fresh food

Wholesome Wave, a Connecticut-based nonprofit, has been pioneering the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx), which sees doctors and medical professionals literally prescribing fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income overweight and obese children who may be at risk of developing diet-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The families of children enrolled in the program receive “prescriptions” (essentially coupons) which they can then use at participating farmers markets to buy the food they need for the week. At the launch of an FVRx program at two New York hospitals, New York Health Commissioner Thomas Farley suggested to reporters that food might provide a direct alternative to some of the pharmaceuticals that are typically prescribed to overweight children:

“This is probably going to prevent an awful lot of disease in the long term than the medicines we tend to write prescriptions for.”

Significant Increases in fruit and vegetable consumption

Initial results suggest that Farley may be onto something. According to the Wholesome Wave website, an analysis of the 2012 program suggested that 55.3 percent of participants reported an increase in their fruit and vegetable consumption, and 37.8 percent of child participants showed a decreased Body Mass Index (the metric used for measuring obesity) since enrolling in the program.

Customers at a farmers' market

Supporting the farm economy

Farmer advocates are also huge fans of the program.

Kayla Ringelheim, market manager at Woonsocket Farmers Market in Rhode Island, even credits the initiative as playing a significant role in the commercial viability of the market by bringing in customers who would never have otherwise shopped there:

“FVRx helped transform the Woonsocket market into one that was vibrant & economically viable for participating farmers.”

A broad range of initiatives

FVRx is by no means the only initiative aimed at bridging the gap between farms and farmers markets and the food insecure. The USDA has been working hard to get SNAP benefits accepted at farmers markets nationwide, and in my neck of the woods in North Carolina, a program called Farmer Foodshare is collecting food from farmers markets and delivering it to community groups, churches and food pantries – paying a fair price to farmers wherever possible. (Disclosure: I have worked with Farmer Foodshare on their branding and communications.)

Ultimately, we’ll never fix issues like hunger or obesity without building a fairer, more resilient food system where everyone has access to fresh, healthy food – and where farmers can make a decent living growing it. Fruit and vegetable prescriptions are just one way of working toward this goal – combining the notions of preventative medicine and sustainable community development in a win-win situation for all.

[Tag Doctors prescribe fruits and vege]

Eat This Now: Japanese Eggplant |

Eat This Now: Japanese Eggplant

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Is eggplant looking a little scrawny to you this season? Don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like that.

That’s because it’s Japanese eggplant, which is becoming increasingly common at farmers’ markets and is typically longer, thinner and a bit more corkscrew-shaped than the eggplant you may be used to. And while it may look strange, it still shares the same nutritional benefits that have made the purple plant a popular mealtime choice.

The food: It’s cooked like a vegetable, but eggplant is actually a fruit (it’s part of the same nightshade family that includes the other confusing is-it-a-fruit-or-a-vegetable plant, the tomato). In the U.S., eggplant tends to appear mostly in Italian or Mediterranean dishes, but Southern and Southeast Asian cuisines have long incorporated the fruit as well. Japanese eggplant is noticeably less plump than its more familiar pear-shaped cousin, and it’s in season from July to October.

(MORE: Eat This Now: Okra)

The trend: Eggplant is valued for the variety of ways it can be cooked, and Japanese eggplant is even more versatile because it has a much thinner skin and is practically seedless. The sponginess of its fleshy inside drinks in seasonings like soy sauce, miso and ginger.

The nutrients: Raw eggplant is very low in calories, saturated fat and sodium, with only 20 calories per cup. It’s a high source of dietary fiber and is packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese. “Leave the skin on this vegetable because it will add fiber to your diet, causing you to remain full for longer periods of time while regulating your digestive system,” says Tracy Lockwood, a registered dietitian at F-Factor Nutrition.

Along with other nightshade plants like bell peppers and potatoes, Japanese eggplants also contain antioxidants like nasunin, which is thought to protect cell membranes in the brain.

photo (26)

The preparation: When it comes to picking the right Japanese eggplant — and storing it correctly — there are a couple of things to keep in mind. If you’re grabbing a few from a farmers’ market, it’s likely that they were picked In the past 24 hours, so the stems should be firm and rough. But be careful: any leaves remaining on the stems are covered in small thorns. Japanese eggplant doesn’t have the same shelf life as other eggplant varieties, so use it soon after purchasing. If it feels firm when you buy it, you can keep it in your fridge for about a week.

And here’s an advantage of the Japanese variety: its thin skin doesn’t need to be peeled. There are many ways to cook it — try grilling, sautéing or baking thin slices. But the way you cook eggplant — and what you add to give it flavor — can change its nutritional profile. (See recipe below.) “Obviously, fried would not be my first choice,” says Keri Gans, a registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet. “And if cooked with a lot of soy sauce, the sodium content will increase greatly.”

(MORE: Eat This Now: Seaweed)

The taste: Japanese eggplant is milder and less bitter than other varieties. Since it’s extra spongy, don’t overdo the marinades — a little goes a long way. “Because it’s very absorbent, sautéing with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar instead of olive oil can save your nearly 200 calories,” advises Lockwood.

The takeaway: While it’s in season, Japanese eggplant can be a tasty and versatile addition to a light summer meal, and its smaller size makes it easier to experiment with different cooking and seasoning techniques. We’re already big fans of eggplant — we named it one of the healthiest foods to eat. Don’t believe us? Try the recipe below for eggplant pizza from Janet Brill, a registered dietitian and fitness and nutrition expert.

Recipe: Mia’s Whole-Grain Pizza With Arugula, Eggplant and Caramelized Onion
Yield: 16 slices

This recipe makes two 12-in. pizzas. One pound of store-bought whole-wheat pizza dough made with olive oil can be substituted for homemade dough if desired. If King Arthur Flour is not available in your area, substitute 1 cup whole-wheat flour mixed with 1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour.

2¾ cups King Arthur white whole-wheat flour
2 tbsp. quick-rise yeast
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup warm water (105°–115°F)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. honey

In a food processor fitted with plastic blade, blend the flour, yeast and salt. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the water, olive oil and honey. With the food processor running, add the water-oil mixture and blend until the flour forms a ball of dough. Process for one minute to knead the dough. The dough will be a bit sticky; if it’s too wet, add up to ½ cup more flour. Spray a bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Put the dough into the prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about one hour, until the dough doubles in size.

¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1¼ tsp. kosher salt, divided
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 8-oz. eggplant, cut into 1-in. cubes
5 oz. (about 4 cups) baby arugula
2 tsp. cornmeal, divided
2 tbsp. olive oil for brushing the crust, divided
¼ cup finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add the onion, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. In the same skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add the eggplant and salt and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes to soften the eggplant. Uncover and cook for two to three more minutes to remove any excess moisture. Remove to a bowl. In the same skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add arugula and cook, tossing the arugula until it is wilted. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

To assemble the pizzas, preheat the oven (and a baking stone if desired) to 425°F. Punch down the dough and divide into two pieces. Set on a lightly floured surface and cover with a towel to rest for five minutes. For each pizza, sprinkle a baking sheet with 1 tsp. cornmeal. Roll one piece of dough into a 12-in. circle and place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush dough with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Distribute ½ cup caramelized onions, ½ cup cooked eggplant and ¼ cup arugula on the dough. Sprinkle each with 2 tbsp. shredded cheese. Repeat with other piece of dough. Bake the pizzas for about 15 minutes until the crust is lightly browned. Cut each pizza into eight slices.

Nutrition per serving (1 slice of pizza):
Calories: 164
Fat: 9 g (EPA 0 g, DHA 0 g, ALA <1 g)
Sodium: 335 mg
Carbohydrates: 18 g
Dietary fiber: 4 g
Sugars: 1 g
Protein: 4 g

Recipe excerpted from Prevent a Second Heart Attack by Janet Bond Brill (Three Rivers Press, February 2011). To learn more about this book, visit or

Natural News Blogs Sprouting Organic Mung Beans » Natural News Blogs

Sprouting Organic Mung Beans

Mung Beans have a shelf life of 3-5 years if kept in a cool, dark place such as a closet but not a hot garage. Mung beans will usually produce twice the amount of sprouts as seeds. Mung bean sprouts can last up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator if properly stored. As with anything in the fridge, if it smells funky in a bad way, don’t eat it!


Put 1/3 cup beans into your sprout jar. Add 2 cups of water. Allow seeds to soak for 8-12 hours. Empty the seeds into your Sprout Jar. Drain off the soak water. You may use it to water plants. Rinse thoroughly with cool (60-70°) water. Drain thoroughly.Once I emptied out the water I set the jar upside down in a bowl to drain completely.

If you want to grow short, sweet Mung Beans – with 1/8 – 1/2 inch roots:

Rinse and drain every 8-12 hours for 2 – 3 days.

If you want to grow big, thick Mung Bean – with 1 – 3 inch roots:
Rinse and Drain every 8-12 hours for 4 – 6 days.

Just to be clear:
Soak for 8-10 hours. Rinse and drain. Leave the jar in a cool place with no direct sunlight for the next 8-10 hours (dry). Repeat. It is VERY important that you rinse and drain thoroughly.The great thing about my Sprout Jar is that it’s self-contained. I can soak, drain, rinse and let them sit all in one container.

Your sprouts are done 8-10 hours after the final rinse. Be sure to drain your sprouts as thoroughly as possible after the final rinse. Remove any left over hulls. Transfer your sprouts to a plastic bag or sealed container and put them in the refrigerator.