Week of 3/12/12: Rethink Your Drink

The Cook County Department of Public Health, in their mission to promote health, is running a series of advertisements on the radio urging Illinoisans to Rethink Their Drinks  There are some interesting statistics on sugar laden drinks on their website.  In addition to the obvious contributions to our waistlines in the form of added calories in our diets, sugar contributes to a great many additional health woes.  According to an article in Natural Awakenings Magazine, sugar is more addictive than heroin, cocaine, nicotine or alcohol.  It has been linked to mental and physical ailments as diverse as headaches, depression, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.  The article further urges readers not to believe the conventional wisdom that sugar is just "empty calories".  Sugar disrupts metabolism, suppresses the immune system and causes inflammation, which is the driving force behind a growing epidemic of chronic diseases.  It affects the same areas of the brain as addictive drugs, leading to subsequent intake and dependency.  While sports drinks are consumed in an effort to replace electrolytes, we sometimes forget that the sugar and dyes in the drinks highly outweigh any benefits of that replacement.  Remember, water, a banana and a handful of nuts replace lost nutrients just as effectively, without any unnatural substances.  And lest we believe that the uncolored, artificially sweetened drinks are any better, we should also remember that those sweeteners are excitotoxins that are believed to have very harmful effects on our brains.  All of this reminds me of a question posed by author Michael Dye:  "So, when a substance is classified as a poison, has no nutritional value, is known to rot teeth, cause numerous physical and emotional problems, and is addictive, indeed it becomes compelling to ask how it came to be that we feed this harmful, toxic substance to children."

Rethink Your Drink Indeed.

Week of 3/5/12: Is Meat the New Tobacco?

March is National Nutrition Month.  If January's New Year's resolutions and February's National Heart Month passed you by, there is still hope!  It is time to take a look at the building evidence and see how your "diet" stacks up.  Chances are, even if you've been ignoring my Healthy Tips, you've begun to hear more about plant-based nutrition in the media.  Why all the attention?  Our population is getting sicker and sicker.  Obesity has been rising at an alarming rate and we've yet to make a dent in the war on cancer.  The doctors, nutritionists and researchers who have been encouraging previously "hopeless" patients to try a plant-based diet are seeing overwhelmingly, indisputable proof that nutrient dense eating improves nearly all health issues and, in some many cases, even cures them!  This week, author Kathy Freston made eye opening assertions in her article, Meat Is the New Tobacco .

The added benefit of nutrient dense eating?  It is FUN!  Pinterest, Facebook, Blogspot, and other media sites are fantastic tools for learning.  There are plant based alternatives to almost everything.  There are a plethora of sites with beautiful pictures,delicious recipes, and easy instructions.  Try Healthy Girl's Kitchen or our very own Chicago blog, YumUniverse, for neat ideas.  There is even an underground Supper Club in Chicago called Seek.  How Chic!  Whole Foods Market offers Health Starts Here classes which run about $30 for four weekly sessions to help you get started.  Looking for something more?  Engine2 diet is running a Weekend Immersion class in Geneva with some of the best in the plant based world.  Parents truly have control over our own health and the health of those in our family.  Let's exercise our control!

Week of 2/27/12: Heart Disease

Chances are you've heard that February was American Heart Month.  Chances are slim that you've heard of Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.  Esselstyn, the author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and a featured doctor in the groundbreaking Forks Over Knives documentary, has been researching, sharing, practicing, and writing about his "Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure" for heart disease since he began to question the results of the surgeries he was performing at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic in 1985.  I can not do his book justice in this space, but please research for yourself and believe that the successes he has experienced in his work are undeniable. They are often achievable at any age and at any stage of heart disease. So the question is, why have none of the "Heart" websites I have visited in my research touted his work as an option for heart patients?  Why, as Esselstyn asks in his book, does the public find the plant strong diet that he advocates for to be more radical than open heart surgery?  I am a firm believer that people should be presented with the strongest scientific as well as anecdotal information on how to achieve and maintain the healthiest lifestyle possible and they can be empowered to choose what they are capable of doing.  To do any less is to sell us all short.  With accurate and clear information, people might surprise their doctors and even themselves by choosing health over sickness and nutrition over drugs and medications.  There is an end in sight, but we need to take control of our own health destinies to finish the battle for our future generations.  We need to educate ourselves with solid information and it needs to be a family affair.  As T. Colin Campbell, the author of The China Study, states, "What is good for the young, is also good for the elderly' what is good for one disease is mostly good for all diseases."  We can improve our health and in doing so improve many other problems that we face, but we need to take the first step to learn what is available to us and to implement winning strategies.

Week of 2/6/12:

Did you know that many populations exist worldwide where heart disease and cancer are almost unheard of? Not to mention the absence of allergies, asthma, ADD, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, acne, osteoporosis, migraines, obesity and a host of other diseases that plague our society. What can we learn from these communities that enjoy a long (many live past 100 years), active life without dentures, eyeglasses or medication? Mainly, we should believe that it is possible! Then we should take note of their lifestyle, diet and zest for life. They eat far fewer calories mainly from unprocessed plant sources and they enjoy close, loving relationships. They don't need to schedule time for exercise as movement is simply a large part of their lives. They report enduring fewer illnesses throughout their lives, enjoying more restful sleep, being active far into their advanced age and feeling happy. So what is your health goal now? Mine is for a healthful life filled with movement, love, laughter and health and freedom from medication, disease and inactivity. I know it is possible, I hope you believe it too!

Week of 1/30/12:

Did you ever stop to think about where your money goes when you donate to charities?  I'm sure you have, but I'm not sure we can always see the big picture.  The evidence is piling up that it is much easier to prevent certain cancers than to cure them, but education is slow to reach the general public.  It is becoming more apparent that the "cure" for many of these cancers greatly lies in our efforts to prevent them, but few people know what that means.  Of course, many cancers happen due to factors outside of our control, but that should give us even more incentive to control the factors we can through dietary and lifestyle choices, exercise, sleep and stress reduction.  Before we sign up to donate time or money to raise awareness for cancer, we should investigate the event or the charity.  If big pink buckets of fried chicken or sodas are going to be served at the event, we might want to consider donating our resources elsewhere.  If prevention education is not at the forefront of the movement, or not included at all, our time might be better utilized by bringing that information to the forefront rather than donating our money to "curing" cancer, which is most likely impossible without the other changes.

According to DiseaseProof.com :  There are powerful protective steps women need to be aware of in order to possibly avoid breast cancer, such as:

  • Exercise
  • Stay slim
  • Eat lots of green vegetables, onions, and mushrooms daily
  • Do not eat mass factory farmed dairy products, especially those given rBGH
  • Stay away from fast foods and insulin promoting refined foods such as white flour and sweets
  • Do not eat mass factory farmed meats given antibiotics and growth promoting hormones

The next time you are asked to join a walk or attend an event to help find a cure, consider that a walk that serves eggs and sausage links for breakfast, deli meats for lunch and sweets after dinner, is not interested in preventing cancer.

Week of 1/23/12: Fitting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together

When our children learn to write stories, they bring home worksheets about making connections between their lives adn their writing.  As adults, we can make connections in our everyday lives too.  Like the connection between our lifestyle and our health.  Dr. Sears, "American's Pediatrician", calls Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude and Nutritiont he FOur Pillars of Health.  Keeping these pillars in Mind can help improve the focus and erformance of adults and children alike.  Often before a test, a recital ot a sporting event, kids are told to get a good night's sleep and eat a healthy breakfast.  Why just on test days?  Let's strive to realize this goal everyday so that our children can maximize their potential.  A child's health begins with their parents.  One day your children will thank you for your efforts!

Week of 1/16/12: Why Does it Matter What Our Athletes Eat?

According to a Psychologytoday.com article: We know that the foods we eat affect the body, but they may have even more of an influence on how the brain work; it's general tone, level of energy and how it handles tasks. mood,motivation and mental performance are powerfully influenced by diet.
It's becoming pretty clear in research labs around the country that the right food or he natural neurochemicals that thay contain, can enhance mental capabilities; help you concentrate, tune sensorimotor skills, keep you motivated, magnify memory, speed reaction times, defuse stress, perhaps even prevent brain aging.
Evidence is accumulating that a diet that draw heavily on fatty food and only light on fruits and vegetables isn't just bad for your heart, it may also be a major cause of depression and aggression.
The health of your brain depends not only on how much (or little) fat you eat, but on what kind it is.  Intellectual performance requires the specific type of fat known as omega-3 fatty acids.  Even diets that adhere to commonly recommended levels of fats, but the wrong kind, can undermine intelligence.  All brain cell membranes continuously need to refresh themselves is a new supply of fatty acids.  A growing amount of research suggests that the omega-3s are best suited for optimal brain function.
In conclusion, a nutrient rich diet can be crucial to one's focus in school, decision making on the field and demanor at home.  Just another example of how food matters!  In this case it's a WIN! WIN! WIN!

Week of 1/9/12: Resolutions

The new year is upon us and with that comes resolution after resolution. The media is full of tips on keeping resolutions, from writing them down, to enlisting a buddy to help stick to our goals. There are many good suggestions, but the most powerful way to keep a New Year's Resolution may simply be to know yourself. Only you can be honest about what you need and how you can attain it. For me, focusing on the health benefits of a food, has paved the way for a nutrient dense diet for the past two years. I find it hard to buy, eat or serve nutritionally irrelevant foods because I know they are taking the place of foods that would increase my family's energy, strengthen our immune systems and help keep our brains functioning properly. You may research a plant-based diet and be content to jump right in, or you might want to just give Meatless Mondays a try like many others trying to improve their health. You might enlist a friend to exercise with or you might resolve to get an extra half hour of sleep per night. I am convinced that we all know what we need to do if we just listen to our inner voice. What is yours telling you?

Week of 12/5/11: SUB!

In lacrosse when a player gets tired, another player is allowed to enter the game as a substitute.  The same procedure can be adhered to in our cooking!  A great substitute for those "power" bars that have become so abundant, but are processed and full of sugar, is to make your own.  An extremely easy recipe is to put equal parts (1/2 cup each) of pitted dates and raw nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, cashews) and/or seeds (sunflower, sesame) in a blender with a pinch of salt.  Pulse until desired texture.  Not so long that it becomes a paste--it should look crumbly.  Roll tablespoon sized ball between hands and serve!  Delicious with unsweetened shredded coconut as well.  They can be kept in refrigerator, but they don't generally last more than a day!  Dates are a wonderful substitute for sugar.  You can even make incredible brownies by grinding a cup of walnuts in a food processor, adding a 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt and then adding about 10 dates one by one until desired taste and consistency.  Press into a pan and refrigerate.  Allergic to nuts?  White beans can also be blended with dates and cocoa powder to make a fudge.  Healthful recipes and substitutes abound on the internet, one just needs to look around.  Amaze your friends and family this holiday season with delicious, nutritious substitutes for all their unhealthy favorites!

Week of 11/27/11: Cold and Flu

In this "Cold and Flu" season, I'd like to simplify things.  There are many concerns with the short cuts that we take with our health.  When people feel sick, they often take vitamin C, pain relievers and cold medicine.   If one suffers from a head cold, it is not likely due to a deficiency in cold medicine.  Instead of trying to fix our ailments with sugary medicines, or prevent health issues with unproven supplements, let's try to get to the root of the problem.  There is a growing belief among people who strive for optimum health through optimal nutrition, that they are resistant to sickness and disease.  In my own experience, I am sold on this.  Gone are the days when I would contract strep throat 3 times per year.  Now when I feel run-down or my children get a runny nose, we drink a green smoothie and get extra rest. Not sold?  Try it for yourself.  Search "Green Smoothies" on the internet for a plethora of great recipes.  Green not your thing?  Add frozen blueberries for a purple hue.  Green smoothies beat most medicines in my book and there are no additives to be concerned about, just green goodness for true health!

Week of 10/30/11: Recap of Leigh Ann Boscarino's nutrition talk at Lakeshore Select Gameday

Girls who play lacrosse are cool, strong and smart.  I may be biased, but Lakeshore Lacrosse boasts a wonderfully inquisitive and talented bunch of young ladies!  I posed some questions to them about what they wanted from life and challenged them to assess their passions and age gracefully.  Their own questions and responses to some of mine were thoughtful and mature.  So how can parents help them to achieve their lofty goals? Work with them to fuel their LEAN living pillars of health: Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude and Nutrition.  Purchase more fruits and vegetables and have them available for quick, delicious and easy snacks.  Model a healthful lifestyle for them filled with adequate sleep, exercise and smart food choices.  Read a book with then and learn about healthful eating together.  Disease Proof  Your Child by Dr, Joel Fuhrman is and eye-opening read.  Spend time shopping for and preparing meals together.  Make you own power bars rather than purchasing them from a box.  Help them continue to make the connections between what goes in their mouths and their performance in the classroom and on the field.  Believe, along with them, that they have a choice to be healthy!

Week of 10/23/11:  Eat Well

Are you interested in leading a long, healthy life free from medication and disease?   Eat Well.   

Such a simple concept, but advice swings wildly on this topic.  What should you eat?  How should you feed your family?  How can you get started?  Where should you look for information?  The best place to start is on the Internet and then in the library.  Research which "experts" have the greatest track record for halting and even reversing disease.  An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.  Grandma was right.  So was Popeye.  Use common sense to determine which foods have the greatest disease fighting properties, don't be fooled by the packaging.  Read the actual ingredients.  The shorter the ingredient list the better.  Consider the ingredient lists of fresh produce.  Each has only one ingredient, most have been around for many years.  Enlist a friend, a sibling, a spouse and make the commitment to get healthy together.  You won't regret it!  

Week of 10/16/11:  5 Easy Tips

Trying to begin your journey to better health?  Here are my 5 favorite pieces of advice:
5.  Get enough sleep!
4. Research! Nutrition is ever-evolving. Make it a point to learn about how you and your loved ones can be protected from chronic disease. Warning: This is a long one. Did you read in last week's Tribune that antioxidants are not all that they are cracked up to be? Did you make it through the whole article? Antioxidants are just the latest in a long line of nutrients to be touted as a health must only to fall under scrutiny years later. Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, Folic Acid and Calcium have seen similar fates. Why? Because it is awfully hard to single out one nutrient. When you eat whole foods, you get the benefit of all the the vitamins, minerals and nutrients intact in their original state. Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, Folic Acid, Calcium and Antioxidants are chock FULL of goodness for you if you actually eat the foods that contain them!
3. Drink Water! (And very little else.)
2. Limit all sweeteners and dyes. Keep sugar intake under 30g per day, lose the Diet Coke and watch out for artificial sweeteners. Don't eat foods or drink beverages that are bright colors unless they are grown from the ground or on a tree.

And the number one piece of advice guaranteed to lead you down the path to better health?
1. Eat many more Fruits and Vegetables.

Week of 10/9/11: Consistency in Sleeping and Eating

Our ability to stay healthy is fundamental to our performance in all areas of life.  School administrators remind us to get a good night's sleep and eat a good breakfast before standardized tests, but even more beneficial would be to follow this practice daily.  According to experts, children from 7-12 years old require 10-11 hours of sleep per night.  12-18 year olds require 8-9 hours.  As for nutrition, more and more experts are gravitating toward a plant based diet, citing that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is key to optimal health.  Even the USDA recently changed their MyPyramid to MyPlate, suggesting that half of our plate at every meal should consist of fruits and vegetables.

Week of 10/2/11:  Feeding our Performance

As a pediatrician, I wonder how so many smart moms and dads, who truly love their children, can feed their family so much fake food.  I believe it is because they don't really understand how junk food harms their children or appreciate how real food will help their children grow smarter, healthier, and happier.--Bill Sears M.D.

When discussing nutrition, I can get most people to make the connections between salt and high blood pressure, fatty meats and heart disease, and sugar and hyperactivity, but somehow we all seem to stumble when it comes to children and nutrition.  There now exists overwhelmingly conclusive evidence that what we eat greatly affects our immune systems, brain function, overall health and performance.  After athletic events, our bodies need water and good nutrition to help our muscles recover in anticipation of their next event.  Treats and sports drinks have become the norm, incidentally, so have injuries, illness, and broken bones.  Help us stop the trend.  Model good nutrition by stocking up on fruits and vegetables and limiting sugar, chips, candy, and sugary beverages.  Be the change you want to see!

Week of 9/25/11: Respect for Our Bodies

At IGLA we are concerned with the big picture. We believe the athletes gain a sense of strength and self-confidence when they participate in sports. It is never too early to start respecting their bodies and recognizing that when one exercises, gets a good night's rest and eats real food with real nutrients, their bodies will reward them in the form of increased prevention of illness, injury, and disease, heightened focus, and improved stamina. We would like to help them make the connection between good choices and good health. Let's get old school. Rather than the players associating athletic activities with sugary drinks and treats, let's introduce them to our youth with water and orange slices! Let's empower our athletes to make healthy choices now to instill a sense of pride in them to make healthy choices in the future!

These tips appear in IGLA's weekly game emails.  They are provided by Leigh Ann Boscarino, IGLA Naperville/Wheaton Director
Leigh Ann grew up in Scarsdale, NY and was introduced to lacrosse when she was five years old.  She played through high school and continued her career at Villanova University in PA.  After college, she returned to Scarsdale to coach the varsity team for 4 years before moving to IL.  Leigh Ann runs a nutrition consultation business and enjoys playing tennis.  She lives in Naperville with her husband and 4 boys who enjoy a large variety of sports.  She is very excited to be involved with growing girls lacrosse in the midwest!