Category: Wellness

A Heart Healthy Diet

fruit, watermelon heart cutoutFebruary is American Heart Month. The heart is the pump that keeps the body going. It has physical and emotional meanings for us so it’s important to take care of it. There’s also reason to believe that preventing heart disease may help with preventing dementia. A great way to take care of the heart is to be conscious of what we’re eating. These are some tips for a heart-healthy diet.

Fiber. It’s not the most glamorous aspect of nutrition but it’s extremely important for everyone. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to make sure you’re getting enough daily. Not only does it help keep you regular but it also helps lower your LDL – the bad cholesterol. For adult women aim for about 28g and adult men should get about 34g of fiber. These amounts can vary with age.

Fats. Not all fats are created equal. There are three types: saturated, unsaturated (mono- and poly-), and trans fatty acids. Opt for unsaturated fats like canola, peanut, and olive. These types of fats are less likely to clog your arteries compared to butter and lard. Omega-3 fatty acids, notably found in fish, are thought to help in several ways like clearing plaque in arteries and lowering blood pressure. Avoid trans fats as best you can. These have been shown to have negative effects on the body especially in terms of cardiovascular health. It is not found much in natural food, presenting mostly in processed foods, which, many dieticians can agree aren’t very good for you anyway.

Speaking of processed foods. Here it is again: Reduce the amount of processed foods you consume. Not just for the trans fats but the amounts of salt and sugar can be problematic. Keep an eye on nutrition labels to keep within recommended levels.  When cooking, try using seasonings to flavor foods instead of adding salt. The case for sugar alternatives is long and complicated, so be mindful of how much you consume in general.

Manage portion sizes. How much you eat is just as important as what you’re eating. Excessive calorie intake can lead to weight gain which can lead to stresses on the heart. Actual serving sizes of foods may change depending on diet needs but it’s important to get the appropriate amount of sustenance. It may be a good idea to limit the consumption of red and processed meats while making sure to eat 3.5oz serving of fish twice a week. And be sure to get at least 5 cups of fruit and vegetables daily! Food diaries are popular for those looking to track their nutritional intake and it’s even easier with the growing number of apps available.

Don’t forget to exercise! Diet and exercise go hand in hand for living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Getting the blood pumping has many heart benefits like raising the “good” cholesterol, managing blood sugar, and keeping weight in check. 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise is a good starting point but always talk to your doctor before starting a new workout regime.

Quit smoking. There’s no way around it and you’ve probably seen it everywhere. All the hard work done through diet and exercise could be negated by smoking tobacco. Quitting may be even better than any heart drug on the market and it decreases your chance of dying from heart disease by 33%.

There are no shortcuts to health so it’s important to keep up with a healthy lifestyle. There is never a bad time to start but there may certainly be benefits to sooner rather than later. Let now be the time you take your health and your life in your hands.

Happy heart day!

Hygge: Find Your Coziness

hygge: creating togetherness with others

Think about the last time you were wrapped in a blanket drinking a cup of hot cocoa as a snowstorm rages on outside. Or cuddling on the sofa with a loved one as you watched the latest blockbuster. Or the joy of having a summer-time barbecue with your friends. What do these have in common? How do these things make you feel? The Danish would call these things hygge.

 

Hygge
HEW-gə

Hygge is a concept deeply rooted deep in Danish culture. It’s hard to give it a direct translation but a popular one is ‘cozy’. It’s more about a feeling or atmosphere than anything in particular. To be hygge or hyggelig (hygge-like), it’s about creating comfort and safety. There’s often a togetherness aspect of spending time with family and close friends. Enjoying coffee together, eating a meal and having conversations, playing games, all these things are considered hygge. Hygge is often thought of as candles, cozy sweaters, and fuzzy socks – and it is (per person Denmark uses the most candles compared to any other nation) – but it is so much more and it is what each person makes it to be. Popular hyggelig activities include cooking together and enjoying the meal, making homemade sweets or treats to share with friends, or even watching a movie at someone’s house. Anything that creates togetherness or homeyness. While hygge often centers around creating intimacy with others but it can also be enjoyed alone. Enjoy a book with coffee, sit outside with the sun warming your face, or whip up your favorite comfort food. Whatever lets you feel grounded, connected, comforted, and safe – that is hygge.

hygge: fire, cocoa, and slippersThe Danes have been developing hygge since the 18th century when the word first appeared. It is thought that it may have come from the Norwegian word hugga which means, “to comfort” and where the English word “hug” is derived from. This concept of coziness and self-kindness envelopes their way of life. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that they consistently rank as one of the happiest countries in the world.

What’s important is that hygge isn’t a new set of rules to add to your life. It’s really about giving yourself a break. So to start, put the phone down and slow down for a second. A huge part of hygge is not just being present but appreciating and living in the moment. Enjoy a cup of coffee with friends or a co-worker. Have a slice of cake or that piece of chocolate. Drink tea while reading a book in a comforting corner. A hygge life is about little indulgences that let you escape from the busy day or stress, not bingeing or being gluttonous. Balance.

hygge: pools of light and plants

While indulging in that extra sweet or taking comfort in curling up makes hygge seem like an indoor activity it works outside as well. The Scandinavian countries experience a lot of darkness during the winter months and the weather isn’t always pleasant but that doesn’t stop them from getting outside or exercising. They don’t believe in bad weather, just unsuitable clothes. Partaking in outdoor activities that you enjoy is also hygge, especially if you do it with friends or family. Walk the dog, play games while waiting for the barbecue, enjoy a picnic. At this point I’m sure you’ve noticed the trend, almost anything can be hyggelig and it isn’t confined to a particular definition. You can enjoy it indoors or outdoors and it is all year round.

Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge and the CEO at The Happiness Research Institute, sums it all up really well in this VICE Interview:

The art of coziness that is hygge has been gaining popularity in the last few years around the world. In 2016 it was the U.K.’s second most popular word (after Brexit) and that was just the beginning of its momentum. There are Pinterest boards beyond Pinterest boards about hygge and dozens of articles like this one talking about its spectacular ability to help you find happiness. But it’s important to remember that hygge is about how things make you feel not the actual things. It isn’t about spending lots of money to buy a concept of coziness. In fact, spending lots of money isn’t hygge at all. The saying, “home is where the heart is” is related to a similar essence; “coziness is when you feel comforted” could be something to keep in mind as you create your hygge journey.

What makes you happy? How can you incorporate self-kindness into your life? What is cozy to you?

Discover your hygge.