Why Biking Is Better Than Running–Or Why I No Longer Feel Like a Failure for Not Running a Marathon

View from the Fox River Trail

View from the Fox River Trail

Yesterday morning could not have been more gorgeous in our neck of the woods.  So I hopped on my bike to get down to the trail that parallels the Fox River in our part of Northern Illinois.  It had been some time since I had traveled much of the trail as it was closed off due to recent flooding.

Boy, was I glad to be back!  All of the trees are in bloom, and the cool moist air that hovered in the wooded areas was a welcome respite on a warmer than normal spring day.

It was one of those rides that makes me wonder why I tend to run more than ride.

I started thinking about running vs. biking.  In my opinion, there is no greater accomplishment than finishing a long run, just because it’s so incredibly physically taxing.  Just to say that you ran several miles makes you feel like a legitimate athlete.  But for me, it’s not tremendously fun.  It’s work.  I don’t get the same sense of exhilaration that I get from working together with a piece of machinery to battle trails and hills.

So as I was riding, I came up with a list of 10 reasons why cycling is better than running (for me).  This will infuriate the running purists that I know, but so be it.

1.  The most obvious difference is the distance possible with bike riding.  I can only run about 5 miles before my knees get sore, but I can bike forever.  This allows me to work on endurance and calorie burning longer, and get out of the neighborhood more.

2.  The terrain does not usually impact a biking outing.  I can ride on roads, trails, paths or even off-road.  With running, I’m limited to finding softer trails in the area so that I’m not running on concrete or asphalt.  There aren’t many of these.  And for some reason, getting in the car to drive somewhere to run just seems silly.

3.  As a woman, I don’t feel terribly safe running on trails, but on my bike I feel more in control.  Sure–some goof could jump out of the woods and make me topple over my bike, but I stand a better chance of getting away, or staying away if I’m faster.  That point may be delusional, but it’s worked for me so far.

4.  My arms are much stronger and toned when I ride regularly.  Having to control the handlebars, especially when standing going uphill, requires arm and shoulder muscles that I typically don’t otherwise engage.  I like how my abs feel as I ride, though I know running works them too as they attempt to stabilize the body.

5.  Running uses the hamstrings most, while biking works hamstrings, glutes and quads (especially when standing).  In addition, I can adjust my pedal push and pull to emphasize different muscle groups if I’m tired (this is definitely not the most efficient use of muscles while riding, but will help if I’ve gone too far, I’m spent and have to get where I’m going quickly).

6.  Even if I have a flat tire, I can still make it home.  A blown Achilles tendon is another story.

7.  Speaking of injuries, my chances are less with riding.  That is, if I don’t repeat the experience I had several years ago when I hit a curb and flew over the handlebars.  Because of my helmet, I only bruised my ego thankfully.  With running, I have to either do run/walk intervals to minimize injury or limit the amount of time I’m running.  In both cases, I don’t feel like I’m getting enough out of a workout.

8.   I’m rarely overheated while biking since I’m creating my own breeze along the way.  And my bike carries my water bottle, phone and keys for me.

9.  Most running and biking experts agree that cycling can help with running, but running does nothing for cycling.  I think that’s rather selfish of running.

10.  I suffered a brain injury years ago (and no, it had nothing to do with that flying over the handlebars incident) and couldn’t ride for the longest time.  My brain couldn’t quickly process what my eyes were seeing, so I couldn’t travel very fast either by car or bicycle.  So the freedom to once again be able to jump on my bike and go wherever I want is one of the greatest gifts of healing.

OK cyclists and runners, what do YOU think?  Click on the comment bubble next to the post’s title to include your thoughts!

Writer’s Bulge: Does a Freelance Career Mean There’s More of You to Love?

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photo credit: John F Hark via photopin cc

If you ask a freelance writer for the top five reasons that he/she chose to go independent, you’d likely hear “to have the freedom to set my own schedule” in that list. The ability to work when you want, with hours that are flexible enough to give you more time for family, recreation and other pursuits makes freelancing ideal.

But if you’re like me, being able to work “whenever” can be a two-edged sword. How often do you work more hours than you did when you were punching a clock?

Are you pulling all-day sessions for days in a row to meet multiple deadlines?

If so, it’s likely that you are spending a lot of that time in conditions that are perfect for writer’s bulge–sitting for long hours, hunched over a desk or computer, so focused on your work that you don’t realize you aren’t moving enough or eating right.

What’s the point of a flexible career when your body is becoming all the more INflexible and you’re gaining weight?

There are lots of small changes that you can make throughout the day that will add up to big returns!

What Are You Wearing?

At the risk of sounding like someone at the end of a 900# phone call, you need to ask yourself this. Are you wearing loose fitting clothes that will not bind you at the waist, hips or knees? The idea here is that sitting constricts your blood flow already, so you don’t want to cut off your circulation any more with something too tight. I definitely subscribe to the notion that if you want to feel professional, it helps to look professional. I’m not suggesting wearing dirty sweatpants, only that you need to wear something that allows for proper blood flow.

How Often Are You Getting Up?

photo credit: mikebaird via photopin cc

photo credit: mikebaird via photopin cc

In the same vein as the previous question, I’m talking circulation here. You’ve likely heard that when you fly, you should get up every couple of hours to reduce the risk of blood clots. Granted, altitude and pressure make conditions all the more critical for movement, but the practice is a great idea for a freelance writer as well. Better yet, make a point to get up and move around every hour. That’s what I do. At first I would set an alarm, but then I just became accustomed to knowing when I had been immobile for about 60 minutes and would get out of the chair for at least 5-10 minutes.

Are You a Distracted Eater?

Freelance writers are successful because they can be extremely focused on the task at hand. The problem is that it’s easy to just grab something to eat so that we don’t have to stop working. I found it extremely helpful to put together healthy snacks for the day and stash them in the desk so that I’m not tempted to mindlessly grab for something when my blood sugar plummets. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, grapes, apple slices, Clementines, even half a Clif Bar keep me going without sabotaging my weight maintenance goals. Don’t think you’re too busy to spend 5-10 minutes prepping some snacks before you get down to work. Doesn’t it usually take longer to forage for something good when you’re starving and crabby?

Are You Hydrated?

No one wants to get up 20 times to go to the bathroom during a writing session. Yet you do need to consider how you are sabotaging your career by not drinking enough water. Sound extreme? Consider that 55-78% of the body is water depending on age, weight and gender. You lose water just by breathing, sweating and eliminating waste, so even if you’re not working out, you are losing water. The brain itself is 76% water and that studies have shown that chronic dehydration affect executive functions like planning and visuo-spatial processing, and reduces your ability to concentrate. So perhaps that writer’s block is really dehydration?

Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, in his book, Your Bodies Many Cries for Water, believes that dehydration actually produces pain and many degenerative diseases, including asthma, arthritis, hypertension, angina, adult-onset diabetes, lupus and multiple sclerosis. His message is, “You are not sick, you are thirsty. Don’t treat thirst with medication.”

How much is enough? Most agree that at least 8-8 oz. glasses of water a day is sufficient for your brain and body to function optimally. Please don’t con yourself into believing that the Diet Coke you are drinking can be counted in this total. Your body needs water not a combination of artificial ingredients that it doesn’t know how to process.

How Is Your Posture?

Photo by portorikan

Photo by portorikan

I just pulled my shoulders up, back and down as I typed this. Poor posture is every freelance writer’s nemesis. Even if you’ve set up your workstation to be ergonomically correct, you still need to check yourself often to make sure that you are sitting up straight. This means space between your ears and shoulders, concentrating on steering your shoulder blades towards your back pockets, keeping your head from falling forward and your back from overarching. Taking the time to stretch your neck throughout the day (moving your head to the left and right, and down toward your chest) helps keep these muscles limber.

Is Your Core Serving You Well?

The muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen work together to create balance and stability for the rest of your body. I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you how sitting for long periods can wreak havoc on your back and make your abdomen feel like mush. Some choose to sit on a stability ball which passively engages the core muscles. I like to do Knee Ups while I am sitting, which involves sitting tall towards the end of my chair, extending my arms so that my palms of my hands are touching the edge of the desk and “marching” my knees up and down in the air. Or a simple Leg Lift that involves sitting tall toward the edge of the chair, extending your legs straight and lifting one at a time slowly, holding for 10 seconds and then lowering (alternating legs).

Are You Working Out During Your Writing Sessions?

I do. I’ve learned to take those 10 minute breaks every hour (or two if I have to stretch it) to complete my entire day’s workout. I’ve put together a list of cardio, strength training and core moves that break out into several 10-minute sessions a day. More and more studies are showing that, while we want to get 30-40 minutes of movement in each day, we can benefit from splitting up those minutes into shorter sections. I found that I not only have more energy after these sessions, but I can think more clearly. Little wonder since exercise has been proven to improve brain function. In 1999, scientists at the Salk Institute in California found that exercise stimulates the creation of new brain cells, and further research shows that aerobic exercise is the most beneficial in this regard. Stringing exercises together with little break in between can bring your heart rate into a good aerobic range, making even strength training similar to cardio exercises for strengthening the heart and promoting fat loss. (email me at marymeyerwrites@gmail.com if you’d like a copy of my workout plan).

More free time is one of your goals as a freelance writer. Will you have the energy to enjoy that time if you don’t pay attention to what your brain and body need while you’re writing?

Let me know what you do to stay fit!

Six Things We’ve Been Duped Into Believing About What We’re Eating

Well, THAT title sounds rather negative, something I don’t like to be on this blog.  But today it’s for a good reason.

I’m mad, and you should be too.  I’m mad that although we have more information about how to be healthier through good nutrition, more Americans are overweight or obese than ever before.

Are we not listening to what we are hearing, or are we misinterpreting what we are hearing?

My Sister’s Story

I have a 50-year old sister who has a mild developmental disability.  Last year, she was diagnosed as having diabetes and high cholesterol (she is at a healthy weight).  I had so many things going on at the time that I didn’t realize that she was subsequently given three prescription medications by her physician.  When I found out, I asked her, “Did your doctor say anything about how to heal from diabetes and high cholesterol through diet and exercise?”  “No, never,” she said.  I confirmed this with another sister who had accompanied her, and made sure that the doctor didn’t diagnose her with forms of both that could not be reversed by a healthier lifestyle.

Needless to say,  I was less than pleased.  My sister makes very little money and is spending a huge portion of it to buy these medications, and now is dealing with significant side effects.  My sister may have cognitive deficits, but she is not stupid.  If her doctor had just given her some sound advice about diet and exercise, she would have followed them to the letter.  There wasn’t even a discussion of taking meds for a short time while she worked on improving her health. Sure doctors are overworked and have little time, but what would it have taken to direct my sister to some helpful resources?

It’s a moot point now because I am now working with her to make these changes, and will present these to her physician.

Who Are You Listening To?

When I took my sister to the store to read food labels in order to make better choices, I was struck by how little she knew about eating well.  Again, it was obvious that this was not because she is “slow”.  It seemed like she had bought into the misinformation that commercials and the words on the front of food packages cause.  If we are looking to these two sources to tell us the optimal way to eat, we are in trouble.

Which of these six things have you believe?

Lowfat is Healthy

Photo by cliff1066

Photo by cliff1066

OK, admit it.  You’ve bought into this one.  I have too.  Just because something is lower in fat, doesn’t make it the best choice if it doesn’t have any other redeeming value.  Case in point:  all of the low-fat chips whether baked chips, lentil chips, rice chips, pita chips, veggie chips, as well as pretzels.  Often there is little nutrition and more salt than your body wants.  If you’re like me, however, you crave crunchy and salty food, and these SEEM like a better choice than Frito’s.  But they are adding calories that will not fill you up or give you sustained energy.  Try to incorporate some low-salt or raw nuts instead, or something like apples, carrots and celery to satisfy your need to crunch.

Zero Calories is Healthy

The only things you want to ingest that have no calories are O2 and H2O–oxygen and water.  Don’t think that you are doing yourself a favor by drinking zero calorie soda.  Take Coke Zero for instance.  Here is the ingredients list:  Carbonated water, colour (caramel E150d), phosphoric acid, sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K), flavourings (including caffeine), acidity regulator (E331).  The only thing that sounds remotely nutritious is the phosphoric acid.  Yet even that has been linked to lower bone density in some epidemiological studies, including a discussion in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  Even Vitamin Water Zero contains things like sorbitol that can aggravate irritable bowel syndrome and other gastro disorders.  Try water with really natural flavoring, like fresh lemon juice or naturally flavored teas.

If It’s Labeled “Organic” It Must Be Good For You

We fell for this one in our household when we jumped on the organic bandwagon years ago.  We started buying packaged meals because they contained all organic ingredients.  The problem?  The ingredients weren’t much to brag about–cornmeal, white rice, high sodium or high fat sauces, etc.  We realized that we saved money buying unprocessed, organic foods and that their preparation didn’t take much more time than these “convenience” meals.  Also be aware that “natural”, “all-natural”, “100% natural”  and “organic” do not mean the same thing.  Natural foods are processed without preservatives or additives, but may have been grown with the use of pesticides or other conventional methods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the term ‘natural’ only as it applies to added color, synthetic substances and fragrances.

Sugar-Free is Healthy

This was a big source of misinformation for my sister, especially with her diabetes.  She thought she could ingest whatever amount of artificial sweeteners that she wanted because sugar was the devil.  But Sucralose (Splenda) and Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweeet) come with a whole host of problems themselves.  They have proven to cause headaches and intestinal distress, and have recently been linked to cancer and the increase in MS, lupus, fibromyalgia and even diabetes (ironic).  Why risk it?  Food additives are not your friend.  Did God design our bodies to be able to process artificial ingredients?  Don’t just listen to me, there is so much information available about these sweeteners.  There are fabulous natural alternatives like agave nectar and honey, so why not give them a try?

Multi-Grain is the Same as Whole Grain

According to Mayo Clinic Registered Dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, multi-grain and whole grain are not interchangeable terms.  “Whole grain means that all parts of the grain kernel–the bran, germ and endosperm–are used.  In contrast, multigrain means that a food contains more than one type of grain, although none of them may necessarily be whole grains,” she says.  The reason we want whole grain is that fiber, nutrients and other healthy parts of the plant are lost when they are milled.  So we should look for breads and pastas that are labeled “whole wheat” or “whole oats” for example.

Photo by Stacy Spensley

Photo by Stacy Spensley

Wheat Flour is the Same as Whole Wheat Flour

Since whole grains keep you fuller longer due to a higher fiber content (which also helps with blood sugar and colon health), they are a better choice.  But don’t be fooled by ingredient labels that say “Wheat Flour”, because that has been refined to lose the outer bran that contains the majority of the fiber.  Choose only “Whole Wheat Flour” if you are eating wheat at all.

It took a little while for my sister to realize that just because a commercial or a label gives the impression that a food is good for you, doesn’t mean that it truly is.  I think she has become a wiser consumer and actually feels empowered with this new information.  We both look forward to seeing her “numbers” at her next doctor’s appointment.

(And yes…she has also started walking and doing a bit of strength training which will also help).

What are some things that have tripped you up in your quest for better nutrition?

8 Reasons Why My Dog Hates Running With Me

Rosie is our seven-year old Australian Shepherd.

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Like any Australian Shepherd worth its kibble, Rosie loves having a job to do.  That job often includes yours truly, since a lack of sheep in our neighborhood means that someone has to be herded, and I’m the only one in the house willing to comply.

Usually I will succumb to being rounded up, nipped at the ankle and nudged by a wet nose to the back of the knee throughout the day.  But when it’s time for a run, Rosie and I are clearly at odds with one another.  What would seem to be a perfect outing for a herding dog and her master often ends badly.

Why?

She Doesn’t Want to Stop for Me

I began running later in life, and when I was starting out I wanted a mentor who could assure me that you’re never too old to begin running.  It wouldn’t hurt if he/she could also assure me that I wouldn’t die trying.

I found Jeff Galloway and his run-walk interval method, and have loved every minute of working out this way.  Say what you will about “walk” having no place in a real runner’s vocabulary.  I don’t care.  I’m a runner because I run.  It doesn’t matter that I add walk breaks in…often.

However, Rosie has an issue with this.  Just as she gets into a running groove, I slow down for a walk.  So she will keep pushing forward, making me feel like a Biggest Loser to her Jillian Michaels.

To no avail–I’m sticking with Jeff’s program.

I Don’t Want to Stop for Her

Previous scenario, but in reverse.  When I’m trying to do the running portion of an interval, Rosie insists that this is the time to stop and make sure that every canine knows that she lives in their neighborhood.  Each dog we pass, whether inside a house barking or out on the street sniffing, gets a sassy squirt from Rosie.

I’m sure there is some Pavlovian method that I can implement that will train her to only pee when my interval timer beeps when it is time for me to walk.  It’s worth a try.

The Harness

I tried a standard leash.  I tried a retractable leash.  I tried various collars.  Nothing kept Rosie from choking herself and yanking my arm out of its socket.  That is, until we started using a harness.  Works like a charm.  Because it goes around her chest, it seems to distribute the force of her pull so that it’s not jarring to either one of us.

The only problem is that she hates it (see photo above).  She literally rolls her eyes every time I pull it out.  The shame of being shackled when your job is to run around being in charge of everything!

Her Herding Instinct is Squelched

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Rosie does get to run free at the dog park and pond!!

Rosie knows she was made to run after mammals twice her size and keep them in line, not to drag me up and down the street.  She tries to make up for her frustration by chasing after the myriad of squirrels, rabbits and other critters in our neighborhood.  Once again, the harness saves both of us from ruin, but leaves Rosie wanting more.

She’s Ashamed of Me

I love to run at night.  Because it’s often dark by the time I get outside, I wear a headlight (best Christmas gift ever from my husband!).  It’s not the most fashionable thing, so it doesn’t work if you’re very self conscious.  Rosie runs to hide as soon as she sees me strap it on.  Funny–it has the same effect on my 17-year old daughter.

She Never Knows the Schedule

Because I adore running, I never want to miss a workout.  So I fit it in whenever I can.  At 6:00 a.m., over my lunch hour or at 8:00 at night.  Rosie never knows when she needs to be ready.  As a result, she spends the day in a state of constant anticipation, and sometimes wears herself out before we even get going.  I think it’s starting to wear on her.

She Gets Gypped on Long Run Days

I’m preparing for a half-marathon, the Galloway way, so I do long runs on the weekend.  As much as she likes to run, Rosie is done after about 30 minutes of my shenanigans.  So on my longer days, she goes for a walk with Dad.  He doesn’t run at all, so Rosie is quick to express her displeasure to me as I try to sneak back in the house hiding my post-run glow.

She Has to Carry Her Own Poop

Just kidding on this one.  I can’t do it.  I’ve seen the bags that can be attached to the leash and the backpacks that some dogs wear,  but I can’t bring myself to do it to her.  I don’t know why, since this is the same dog who once came home from doggie day care with a remnant of every other dog on her coat.  It’s not like she has cleanliness standards.

But we still keep running together.  That is until she throws in the towel, or I start marathoning.  Then my husband gets to be the sheep.

How does your dog like running with you?  Please comment!

SUGAR: Spoiling Your Child or Ruining Your Child?

I couldn’t believe my eyes and could hardly contain myself.

I had stopped at a friend’s house to drop something off and saw her son, who had been kept home from school with the flu, eating a package of sugary “fruit” snacks.  Now I don’t want to be a nutrition snob, but I have mentioned so many times to anyone within ear shot that sugar suppresses the immune system.  How does she expect him to get better if her idea of helping him is letting him eat whatever tastes good?

Photo by AdamCaudill

Photo by AdamCaudill

And then I thought, “Wait a minute.  My child invariably gets sick within a day of ingesting sugar, but does that mean everyone’s immune systems are sensitive to it?”  I finally decided to take a closer look to see what others were saying about this.

A Google search for the topic landed me on WebMD.com first (of course).  Their M.D. writer posted in July 2012, “Consuming too much sugar suppresses immune system cells responsible for attacking bacteria. Even consuming just 75 to 100 grams of a sugar solution (about the same as in two 12-ounce sodas) reduces the ability of white blood cells to overpower and destroy bacteria.”  

Nancy Appleton, Ph.D., author of Lick the Sugar Habit, contends that sugar impairs the body’s defenses against infectious disease, citing a 1997 study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, entitled “Depression of Lymphocyte Transformation Following Oral Glucose Ingestion”.  

And AskDrSears.com, the “Trusted Resource for Parents” says, “The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours.”  

Many of today’s experts have Dr. Linus Pauling to thank for what we know about sugar and its effect on the immune system.  Dr. Pauling is famous for his research in the 1970s that revealed that Vitamin C helps white blood cells, our body’s infection fighters, to attack viruses and bacteria.  Therefore many of us grew up believing that popping Vitamin C when we are sick will cure us.  But the other side of the coin is this:  Dr. Pauling also discovered that when glucose levels are high from the ingestion of sugar, it competes with Vitamin C to enter white blood cells.  So sugar keeps Vitamin C out, slowing the immune system’s response and compromising its ability to recognize and fight invaders.

So why don’t more people, especially parents know this?  When I bring my daughter to a party and tell her to avoid the sugary treats, the moms and dads look at each other as if they should call Child Protective Services.  I’ve heard “just this once” more times than I can stand.  If I dare to say something about sugar and the immune system, people are aghast.

On the other hand, I don’t want to encourage people to use artificial sweeteners either.  Though the U.S. FDA claims that aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal and others) to be the most thoroughly tested and reviewed food additive, others claim that it is a neuro-toxin responsible for the uptick in cases of Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus.  Since I can’t prove who is right, I prefer to choose natural refined sugar alternatives like Stevia and Agave.  And my kid seems satisfied.

When my daughter was a toddler, my mom used to have a huge bowl of M&Ms out on the kitchen counter at her house.  She put them within reach because she knew that I didn’t give my child sugar, and she thought it was horribly mean.  I would let my daughter take one, and she would savor it for an hour because she knew she wasn’t getting any more.  Now 17, she is sugar savvy, knowing that any more than a little bit and she will rush headlong into a cold.  While many of her “no holds barred” sugar-ingesting friends have been sick with all of the viruses that are rampant this year, she hasn’t missed out on anything due to illness.  So who’s horribly mean now,

Mom?

 

Even My Eyes Are Going Through Menopause?

I’ve worn glasses since I was ten years old, so in my time I’ve seen a fair amount of optometrists.  My first was a freckled leprechaun of a man who always pinched my cheek and told me how cute I was, quite the ego boost for a chubby adolescent with glasses.  He would be my optometrist for a couple of decades until he retired and I had long outgrown the need for affirmation from a mythical creature.

'Blue Eyes' photo (c) 2010, jimmy brown - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/The doctor I’ve been seeing for the last eight years has to be my all-time favorite.  It has little to do with the fact that I love his name, Dr. Christ (rhymes with “mist”), but more likely because I feel like I’ve graduated cum laude from optometry school each time I leave his office.

I’m confident I’ve gotten my  money’s worth at these appointments because I always learn something new that makes a difference in the way I see my eyes (pun intended).  Which in turn feeds my insatiable desire to take my new found knowledge and then impress someone who is not as learned in the field of ocular health.  So here goes…

Did you know that a woman’s eyes change during menopause?  As if it weren’t difficult enough to navigate the raging torrent of physical, mental and emotional fluctuations, now we have to pay attention to what is going on with our eyes.

Most of us know that vision changes as we age.  Lenses harden and cause us to have difficulty seeing fine print without readers, bifocals or really long arms.  It seems like the day that I turned 40, I realized that I was having to take my glasses off, or peer through the top or bottom to read things up close.

But I had also noticed lately that my eyes were often red and felt like they had sand in them.  Though I suspected that I had developed a new allergy,  I couldn’t pinpoint the source of the problem.  Dr. Christ told me that as we enter menopause, changing levels of hormones also affect the chemical composition of the secretions of our eyes.

He went on to say that the place where our eyelashes emerge from our eyelids is a breeding ground for bacteria and under normal conditions, our tears help wash away that bacteria.  But hormonal fluctuations cause a change in the one or all of the three layers of our tears (mucus, aqueous and lipid), meaning microorganisms are not kept in check  like they are when we are younger.

He sent me home with a bottle of OCuSOFT Lid Scrub Foaming Eyelid Cleanser.  At the end of each day I pump some of the foam onto a wet washcloth at night and wipe my eyelids.    As a bonus, it also takes off eye makeup, eliminating one step in my nightly routine.  Since I’ve been using it I haven’t noticed any problems with my eyes.

I wonder if Dr. Christ has a magic formulas for hot flashes?

Popcorn Contains Antioxidants? Who Knew?

My husband came home from work the other day with a spring in his step and a piece of paper in his hand. He triumphantly placed it in front of me as I sat at the computer doing research for a freelance assignment. “I’ve always told you that popcorn was good for you, and now here’s the proof,” he beamed.

Picking up the sheet he printed off the internet, I took a quick glance at the headline “Popcorn Contains More Antioxidants Than Fruits and Vegetables”. It summarized details of a study conducted at the University of Scranton that found that popped corn serves up twice as much antioxidants as the foods we’ve been trying to eat to stay healthy.

I immediately knew I would be eating crow, as well as eating more popcorn. For the ten years we have been married, I’ve rejected any and all notions that my husband’s favorite food was actually good for you. Of course I knew that it offered a healthy amount of fiber, but beyond that I thought it was about as nutritious as packing styrofoam.

I looked up from the paper and saw his face glowing with a mixture of vindication and relief akin to a death row prisoner being acquitted after years behind bars. I wish I could tell you that describing it as such was cheesy hyperbole, but no. My husband is undoubtedly the world’s foremost connoisseur of all things popcorn (challengers pay heed), and for the last 50 years has shot down anyone who has told him that his nightly treat was nothing but junk food.

I read on. Apparently a Scranton professor of chemistry, Joe Vinson, Ph.D., and one of his students Michael Coco, found that compared to fruit, popcorn has a greater concentration of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant purported to defend the body against free radical damage to cells.  A number of degenerative diseases including cancer and diabetes are known to be caused by harmful free radical reactions.

By grinding up corn kernels and popped corn, the researchers found the amount of polyphenols was up to 300 mg a serving compared to 114 mg for a serving of sweet corn and 160 mg for all fruits per serving (http://www.scranton.edu/news/articles/2012/03/popcorn-study.shtml).   Popcorn is about 4% water compared to most fruits which average about 90% water, which helps explain the higher concentration.  And similar to fruit, the greatest amount of antioxidants are found in the skin, or hull.

I found that I was right on the fiber issue:  Vinson notes that popcorn is the only 100% whole grain food (did you know that according to the Whole Grains Council, food only has to have 51% whole grain to be labeled “whole grain”?)

However, there’s always a caveat when someone releases a pioneering study on nutrition.  Of course you know what Vinson said next:  you can benefit from the polyphenols in popcorn, but you’re defeating the purpose if you load it with butter, salt, caramel, cheese or any of the other glorious toppings that make popcorn so incredibly tasty.

My husband cooks his in organic olive oil and puts on a bit of organic butter (healthier than margarine any day) and a bit of organic sea salt.  I don’t know if Vinson would approve, but if my husband’s health history is any proof, forget the apple—a bowl of popcorn a day keeps the doctor away.