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Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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Avoiding added sugar and its negative affects

Sugar.157541706By Courtney Baechler, MD

Increasingly, we see reports on the negative affects of sugar. Just last month, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine linked sugar to increased risks of heart disease.

For years, a variety of experts emphasized that high-fat diets are the strongest culprits of heart disease. Food companies quickly manufactured fat-free foods that were extremely high in sugar – think fat-free cookies, crackers and oversized bagels. This led to a fat-free epidemic, and large increases in the amount of sugar people are eating and the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

What happens when we eat foods with a lot of added sugar?

As we digest these sugars, they are quickly metabolized and tend to spike our blood sugar quickly. The pancreas then quickly releases insulin to decrease our blood sugar levels. Over time, this may lead to decreased insulin production and sensitivity, which in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes.

High levels of sugar also create inflammation in our body. When those high sugar levels hang around, they turn into fat or triglycerides, which are one part of our cholesterol or lipid (fat) profile. This is perfect storm for sticky blood vessels, and leads to increases in both our weight and risk of heart disease.

How can we decrease our sugar intake?

  • Start by getting rid of soda pop. Soda pop contributes to one-third of all the sugar we intake as a nation. You might be surprised, but the average 12-ounce can of pop has nine teaspoons of sugar which on average is more than most grown men and women should have in a day.
  • Keep an eye out for what might be added to your “energy drink.” Often, there is as much sugar added to energy drinks as soda pop.
  • The other big culprits are candies and yogurts. The yogurt is a surprise for most of my patients. I will have many patients tell me that they have a turkey sandwich and a yogurt for lunch. Most think, that sounds alright, right? Think again, many name-brand yogurts have a large amount of added sugar. Many of the “100 calorie-light yogurts” have 26 grams of sugar! Not so healthy after all. Your bread might have a lot of added sugar, too.
  • Start reading food labels. Conveniently, the FDA has moved to make it even easier to read the added sugar content in years to come with the recognition of how important decreasing our sugar content is.
  • Don’t be alarmed or think that you need to stop eating fruit. Fruit has “natural sugars,” which are just fine and also has fiber that helps slow the release of sugar. It’s the added sugars that cause trouble.

On that note, I hope this helps demystify the sugar story some. If you want to learn more, check out our story on KARE 11 news or the original study from JAMA.

Stay well and go light on the added sugar!

Courtney Baechler, MD, is a practicing physician with and the vice president of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. She has a master’s degree in clinical epidemiology from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.

 


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Art of Healing exhibits in February and March

ArtArt is powerful. It can nourish the mind, body and spirit, and it can support healing. That is the inspiration behind a bimonthly Art of Healing exhibit offered by the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

You can view the following exhibits on the Abbott Northwestern Hospital campus for the remainder of February and March:

  • The late Dr. André Bruwer’s X-rays of nature are on display at the Penny George Institute’s outpatient clinic – Abbott Northwestern. Over five decades, his passionate pursuit of X-ray art (pictured right) resulted in a stunning collection of images showcasing the unseen delicacy of the natural world. He called his X-ray images skiagraphs. The words skia and graph come from the Greek words for “shadow drawing.”
  • The paintings of Douglas Ross are on display in the Wasie Building lower level gallery, outside the Livewell Fitness Center. Ross changed the direction of  his work dramatically after his retirement from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he taught sculpture and drawing for 32 years. Upon moving from Nebraska to Minnesota, he embarked on a series of paintings inspired by the landscape of northern Minnesota. The focus of the majority of his paintings is the trees, rocks and water that form the dramatic landscape along the north shore of Lake Superior.

The displays are part of the Penny George Institute’s Art of Healing Program, which provides arts-based wellness intervention and education, and supports a healing environment. For more information, call 612-863-9028.


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Tips for embracing winter wellness: Exercise

winterThis article originally ran in the Healing Journal newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

During winter months, your exercise routine may change, and according to exercise physiologist Marc Arndt, MA that’s okay. “With the shorter days and darkness, it may not be possible to take a walk or run outdoors after work, but it may be the ideal time to focus more on an indoor strength training routine.”

Arndt suggests that people think differently about fitness during the winter and take small steps to incorporate exercise into your daily routines. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or if the weather is nicer, park your car further from the entrance to your office or the grocery store.

At the Penny George Institute – Unity Hospital in Fridley, Arndt works with people of all fitness levels, from those with no previous exercise experience to competitive athletes. He helps some through one-on-one personal training and others to simply develop a fitness routine. In as little as a one-hour fitness consult, he is able to identify goals and put together a routine to follow at home with minimal equipment.

Tips on how to incorporate exercise into the winter months

  • Try some new winter outdoor activities that offer great exercise. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, winter hiking and downhill skiing are great options. Be sure to dress for the weather with layered clothing designed to keep moisture away from skin such as wool socks and a Merino wool base layer. Snowshoeing, for example, is an exercise that just about anyone can participate in. Arndt notes that the energy expended during 15 minutes of snowshoeing is equal to that expended during 30 minutes of treadmill walking. It is also good for developing balance skills.
  • Develop a home routine. You don’t need expensive equipment or machines to start an effective home exercise routine. For strength training, a simple set of weights or resistance bands will suffice. If you do a high number of repetitions and multiple sets, you can gain as much cardiac benefit from strength training as you could on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
  • Remember that exercise helps change your mood  for the better. Even a short break in your day to incorporate physical activity will help change your hormone levels to elevate your mood. During the winter, it’s natural to feel more lethargic and a little exercise will make a world of difference. Ideally, Arndt recommends 20 to 30 minutes a day, but if that isn’t possible with your work or personal schedule, try to get in as many 10 minute periods of physical activity as possible, whether it’s taking stairs, walking indoors at your work place or taking a break for strength training.
  • Hydrate. During cold weather, you still need to hydrate. Make sure you take in as much water as you would during exercise in warm weather.
  • Window shop. In the coldest days of winter, the best exercise is walking through your local mall or shopping center. Many of the malls in the area have walking programs, with early morning or late evening hours designated especially for those seeking a warm, safe place to walk. Community sports centers may also have an inside track available for those seeking a costeffective, reliable spot to get some exercise.

Marc Arndt, MA, is an exercise physiologist at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Unity Hospital. To make an appointment with Arndt, call 763-236-5601.


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A look at declining fitness for kids around the world

BaechlerChildren are now slower runners than their parents were, according to new data from the American Heart Association.

The study showed that around the world, children are 15 percent less fit than their parents were during childhood. In the United States, childhood cardiovascular performance declined between 1970 and 2000.

Courtney Baechler, MD, a cardiologist and vice president of the Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing, discussed these finding on Minnesota Public Radio’s The Daily Circuit. Listen to the segment.


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Nutrition: The benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

 Man enjoying the Mediterranean dietThis article originally ran in the Healing Journal newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year found that about 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart attack could be prevented in people if they switch to a Mediterranean style diet. The results of the study were so overwhelmingly clear that the study was stopped early.

“The Mediterranean diet is not a specific diet plan or program,” said Jeannie Paris, RD, LD, integrative nutritionist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. “Rather, it is a collection of eating habits followed by people in the Mediterranean region including Greece, southern Italy and Spain.”

According to Paris, the diet is characterized by abundant plant foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil and a moderate amount of fatty fish or lean poultry. Some people following the eating style may consume a small amount of red wine with meals. The lifestyle in the Mediterranean region also places an emphasis on being physically active and enjoying meals with family and loved ones. The Mediterranean diet is also known for what it does not include: very little or no
red meat, trans fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, foods high in sugar or processed foods.

“Along with reducing the risk for heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases, the Mediterranean diet may be helpful in reducing the risk of cancer, obesity, type II diabetes and other chronic illnesses,” said Paris. “The premise is that certain types of foods cause inflammation, including foods high in refined sugars or flours and foods that contain trans fatty acids, which are prevalent in the typical Western modern diet.”

Tips for incorporating a Mediterranean-style diet into daily life:

  • Emphasize plant proteins. Nuts, small seeds and legumes provide healthy protein and fiber. Experiment with new options, such as chia seeds, which are easily added to Greek yogurt or oatmeal.
  • Keep moving. Try to move more throughout the day. It doesn’t need to be an hour at the gym. Short walks spread in five to 10-minute increments throughout the day offer great benefits. Try to aim for 10,000 steps, which you are able to monitor through a pedometer or another tool, such as a Fitbit.
  • Make fruits and vegetables the center of your meals. One of the most important things to do to improve your diet is to shift your thinking from making meat the center of a meal to making plants the center of your meals.
  • Plan your meals around the fruits and vegetables. Aim for a variety of colors. The goal should be seven to nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables, but even five servings a day would make a big difference in improving most people’s diets.
  • Fish and poultry are healthier than red meat. If you include animal proteins in your diet, emphasize fish or poultry over red meat. Red meat is high in saturated fat. Cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and swordfish, are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Use fruit as a dessert. In the Mediterranean diet, whole fruit is often served as a dessert. This is a much healthier option than our typical desserts, which are high in refined
    sugars. The key is to shop for fruit in season, when it naturally tastes its best.
  • If something is good for you, more is not necessarily better. In the study, participants were not limited on the amount of olive oil they could use and were actually instructed to use at least four tablespoons a day. They were told  to avoid all commercially made cookies, cakes and pastries and to limit dairy and meat. Olive oil, nuts and avocados are rich sources of monosaturated fat, but do provide a high amount of calories in rather small servings. Olive oil contains about 120 calories per tablespoon. To prevent weight gain, it’s important to limit unhealthier food choices when healthier monounsaturated fat sources are added in one’s diet. For olive oil, Paris recommends pouring extra virgin olive oil into a spritzer bottle and then spray your fish or vegetables before cooking instead of pouring the olive oil directly into the pan.
  • Seek expert help. Paris works with clients and offers one-on-one integrative nutrition counseling and metabolism testing.

Olive Oil Dressing

Olive Oil Salad Dressing
A very easy, flavor-filled dressing that goes with any kind of salad.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam (could use no sugar added jam or fresh raspberries in season)

Combine the three ingredients in a blender or shaker and process until smooth. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Ingredient amounts can be adjusted for desired batch size and also to individual liking.

Delicious over a bed of spinach or mixed greens with strawberries, blueberries and a sprinkle of sliced almonds, walnut pieces or chia seeds.

To make an appointment with Paris, call the LiveWell Fitness Center at Abbott Northwestern Hospital at 612-863-5178 or the Penny George Institute – Unity Hospital at 763-236-5656.


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Mindful eating for the real world

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Molly Ellefson (right) offers one-on-one integrative health and wellness coaching sessions.

By Molly Ellefson, MS, CHWC

Mindful eating, a concept based on Buddhist traditions, is a process of putting all your focus on the food you are eating. You eat slowly with no distractions, while noticing all the nuances of each bite: temperature, texture, flavors, and sensations in your body.

While this can be a powerful experience, most of us aren’t able to eat like this all of the time. Then, how do we eat mindfully in the real world?

In her book, “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat,” Dr. Michelle May defines mindful eating as “eating with intention and attention.” When you eat with intention, there is a purpose for eating – to satisfy hunger, fuel your body and for enjoyment. When you eat with attention, you tune in to the sensations and flavors of what you are eating. You also pay attention to your body’s internal cues about satisfaction and fullness.

Here are six ways to build mindfulness into your meals:
1. Before you eat, take a minute to think about why you want to eat. Are you physically hungry, bored or are you eating by the clock?
2. Remember that true hunger is a physical sensation. Physical hunger can feel like an empty or shrinking feeling in your stomach. You may also feel the effects of low blood sugar, such as: irritability, trouble concentrating, light headed, nauseated, or have a headache.
3. When planning what to eat, think about what foods make you feel good physically. The goal of mindful eating is to feel better when you’re finished eating, not worse.
4. Consider balance when choosing what to eat. What does your body need and what have you already eaten? Do you need vegetables, fruit, protein, carbs or fat?
5. Think about what foods make you feel satisfied and allow yourself to have them. Remember that satisfaction is both mental and physical. Deprivation of our favorite foods rarely works. How many times have you said to yourself, “I’m never having ice cream again,” only to find eating a pint of Häagen-Daaz two weeks later.
6. While eating, pause periodically. Put your fork down, take a couple of deep breaths and check in with your body and your taste-buds. Notice if you feel any sensations in your stomach or if the food is starting to lose its luster. If we pay attention, even when eating our favorite foods, we may notice that things become too salty, sweet, creamy, etc.

Try one or two of these tips at your next meal. You may notice that you feel much more satisfied when you eat when truly hungry and eat the foods that make you feel satisfied. If you balance eating for nutrition with eating for pleasure, you are eating mindfully. Eating is one of life’s great pleasures – just make sure it isn’t the only one!

Molly Ellefson, MS, CHWC, is an Integrative health and wellness coach with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. She will be teaching the eight-session “Am I hungry?® Mindful Eating Workshop,” based on May’s book, starting Sept. 25. Learn more about the class.


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A healthy spin on summer grilling

By Jeannie Paris, RD, LD

Summer in Minnesota brings family reunions, outdoor cookouts and weekends at a cabin or camping with friends and family. These events tend to center around food, and often times we find ourselves gathering around an outdoor grill.

By late summer, you may be tired of the usual hamburgers, hotdogs or chicken breasts, but grilling isn’t just for meat or veggie burgers. You can cook up many foods that you may not have thought about. With fresh, local produce arriving at farmers’ markets, this is the perfect time to put a new spin on your grilling techniques!

  • Pizza is a favorite of many, and grilling your next homemade pizza eliminates using the oven. Choose the right toppings, and you have a healthy, delicious meal! Start with a whole wheat crust, spread it with tomato, pesto sauce or olive oil, and pile on sliced veggies such as broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes, onions and peppers. Add some lean meat or low-fat feta or mozzarella cheese if desired. Place the pizza directly on the grill, close the lid and wait for desired doneness. Then slice and enjoy!
  • Many of the summer veggies are delicious grilled! You can lightly coat asparagus spears with olive oil and spices, and lay the spears on the grill crosswise for about 5 minutes. Zucchini and summer squash are easy to grill as well. They can be cut lengthwise into quarters, brushed with olive oil and grilled to desired tenderness.
  • Foil packets are an easy way to grill veggies that are too small to place directly on the grill, such as carrots, tomatoes, onions, green beans, mushrooms and peppers. Use heavy-duty foil and spray one side with cooking spray, add veggies and spices, completely close the packet and place on the grill. Flip the packet once during cooking and expect cooking time to be 25-30 minutes.
  • Fresh fruit grilled is a sweet summertime treat! Try a whole, peeled banana, and slices of peach, apple, pineapple or pear directly on the grill. Larger slices are best to prevent burning. Add grilled fruits to a salad, top your protein source with them, or enjoy them as a side dish or a sweet, healthy dessert.

Just thinking about grilling fresh veggies and fruit has my mouth watering so I’ll be heading to a farmers’ market this week for some local veggies to put on my grill!

For more healthy recipes, visit Allina Health’s recipe page.

http://www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/Index.aspx#top-stories

http://www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/Article.aspx#nourish

http://www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/Article.aspx#thrive

http://stage.allinahealth.org/Components/Templates/HealthtySetGo/article.aspx#article-1

http://www.allinahealth.org/Components/Templates/HealthtySetGo/Index.aspx#top-stories

Jeannie Paris, RD, LD, is a Registered Dietician with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center.