Category Archives: Why It Matters Wednesday

Why It Matters Wednesday: New USDA Guidelines

I won't lie... the Whole Foods produce section is practically a religious experience for me.

You probably grew up with the understanding that fruits and veggies were an important part of the daily feeding process, but recent reports are indicating that Americans, advised to aim for ‘five a day,’ are still not getting enough

Yesterday, the US Department of Agriculture released new dietary recommendations to Americans, this time focusing less on counting servings and focusing more on fractions. In addition to advising Americans to watch their salt intake, eat less sugar, and consume less processed, prepackaged food (particularly of the dessert variety!), they also created a visual example of how to eat enough vegetation — fill half of your plate.

So is the Food Pyramid becoming a pie graph?
NPR’s April Fulton suggests… maybe. “The pyramid is still in place for now, although they might revise that a little bit later,” she says here. “But a lot of people are speculating they may move more towards a plate.”

But the break down gets a little more specific.
Age and race considerations factor into advice given to people with hypertension, those over 51, and African Americans — no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt — because these groups are the most likely to experience health problems as a result of excessive sodium intake.

So will this make eating better easier?
We can hope. At the very least, this gives a very visual guide of how to approach our plates. But there is still quite a bit to be desired…

We all know fruits and veggies are low calorie, highly nutritious and do worlds of good for us, and as always… that the ounce of prevention will always be worth more than the pound of cure. But what about the long-run? What will it all mean in the next several years?

Well, this remains to be determined. We’re starting to see more in the news about work being done to make school lunches healthier, etc., and I’m certainly hopeful that these will have a genuinely positive impact on our society. In the mean time, though, keep these images in mind when you’re dishing up dinner or reflecting on your food journal:

– Most dinner plates are about 10″ across, meaning that to follow the USDA’s new half-plate advice, you should have veggies spanning 1o inches in length and 5 inches in width. About the size of a (slightly rounded) paperback.
– Consider giving up the salt shaker entirely… I won’t lie, this is a hard one to do… But Jessica, aka Sodium Girl, likens sodium-free living to being similar to not wearing black anymore — at first, a mind-boggling challenge, but later a lesson in creativity and exploration. Be sure to check out her blog which explores how delicious life can be without sprinkling tiny crystals all over everything.

Sound off!! Tell me what you think of the new guidelines — will they do any good? Are they helping or hindering?

More info/news on the guidelines here.

P.S. Thank you, Jeremy, for post inspiration this week! 🙂

Advertisements

Why It Matters Wednesday: Hello! (and Falling Asleep)

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Gosh, but it feels like Tuesday… Three-day weekends will do that to you, I guess…

I’m currently recuperating from a could-be-so-much-worse knee injury (of the wow-was-I-being-dumb variety) so my running’s been a little light lately (read: nonexistent) but I wanted to make sure to get online tonight to introduce a new series… Why It Matters Wednesday. (Bear with me… it’s a working title for now.)

The idea behind this is to bring up topics that pertain to health and wellness and why we should take the extra time/energy to care about how they affect us. In the name of grace, I know my first several posts will be fairly broad, but I’m hoping to get down to the nitty-gritty eventually and address things that interest me in a bigger sense… things that are more cause-based and incite a bit more fire in my writing (blood donation and autism to name a couple of near-and-dear causes), but first things first…

Hello! Welcome to Why it Matters Wednesday!

Baby yawning

This kid's got the right idea... Goodnight everyone!

As it is rapidly drawing close to bedtime for me, the subject of sleep is certainly on the front of my mind… or rather, falling asleep. We’ve heard every syndicated medical expert on radios/TVs/the interwebs talking about why sleep is so good, how much you should get, that sleep can contribute to your weight loss… We get it. Enough already. But for many people, the act of falling asleep is the challenge and staying asleep can be a battle.

There is a wiiiiiiiiiiide spectrum of advice on how to get yourself to sleep — much of it is solid, research-supported advice — but a lot of it is just one big stew pot of old wives’ tales sprinkled with some friend-0f-a-friend-based urban legend. The problem with faulty advice? Faulty results! Here are a few of my favorite myths about how to fall asleep…

1. “Just flip on the TV… You’ll zone out.”
Well, not really… Your bed is a zone that should exclusively be “for sleep and hanky panky” (no joke — the American Sleep Association has that on their website!). No reading, no TV-watching, and you should definitely do as I say and not as I do (right now) and NOT tappety-tap on your laptop from the comfort of your bed. Associating your bed with anything other than sleep or hanky panky (I just wanted to say hanky panky again) prompts wakefulness. Unplug, unwind, and for Heaven’s sake… don’t play with your computer/iPhone/other techy stuff in bed.

2. “Man, I hate insomnia! I keep a bottle of NyQuil on the nightstand just in case…”
Taking NyQuil to make you go to sleep is not wise… at all. The wonder drug we all know and love for when we’re itchy, sneezy, sniffly, feverish, et al is known to cause drowsiness — hence the warning about not operating heavy machinery. The problem with relying on this effect is that antihistamines aren’t intended to be used as sleep aids and can actually cause ‘fragmented sleep,’ meaning the sleep you’re encouraging will not be restful, sustained sleep.

3. “Hmm… Can’t sleep… Guess it’s time for a  beer…”
Alcohol is something of a false friend when it comes to sleep. Though it makes you feel drowsy initially, it inhibits deeper levels of sleep and drinking lots can mean you’ll have to get up in the middle of the night.

Sleep is important for a lot of reasons, but if we won’t listen to docs and get enough sleep or see a physician to help diagnose a possible sleep disorder, we’re putting more at risk than our waistlines and vanity — we’re putting each other at risk.

Fatal crashes are most likely to occur between 2:00 and 3:00 AM and are more than ten times more likely to occur then than they are between 8:00 and 9:00 AM. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that about 1,500 drowsy driving related deaths occur each year, that 71,000 injuries are reported from drowsy driving-related crashes, and that $12.5 billion dollars are lost annually to these crashes.

You’ve probably heard every reason imaginable imploring you to sleep more, sleep regularly, sleep well but after a while, it probably just sounds like noise. Does hectoring the public make them more likely to follow sound advice? Probably not. But imagine how much more you could get done, how much more time you could save, and most importantly how much more energy you’d have for everything if sleep was your priority and not just an option.

Do yourselves a favor — get sleep regularly. And if you can’t fall asleep, get help from a professional — you’ll be thankful that you did. (And I won’t avoid driving when you’re driving.)

With that said, I’m off… G’night everyone!

Resources:
American Sleep Association
Sleep Foundation
Mayo Clinic: Expert Answers (Insomnia)
– Choose Safety for Life: Drowsy Driving
– AAA Foundation — Drowsy Driving FAQ