Give yourself a big-time boost with a little help from our new-year health special.
Kiss Or Cold?
The French peck on both cheeks is less likely to pass on a cold than the British handshake. The fingers of someone who has a cold are likely to be contaminated as a result of unconscious rubbing of the nose or eyes. It’s riskier to shake hands with such a person than be close to a serial sniffer or even directly in the path of a giant sneeze—as long as any droplets stay away from your eyes and nose.
Berries For The Belly Strawberries can soothe a troubled stomach, new research suggests. They are thought to help prevent stomach ulcers by reducing damage done to the stomach’s mucous membrane. The findings are still unconfirmed, but you’ll do yourself no harm by enjoying this delicious preventative remedy throughout the summer months. Turmeric, cranberry juice and probiotic yogurt may also help heal the stomach lining, as will oily fish and plenty of dark- green vegetables.
Get Oiled Up!
Cooking carrots with a little oil increases the available levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene, because this vitamin is soluble in fat. A 2011 study found that our bodies can absorb just 11 per cent of the beta-carotene from raw carrots, but this figure rises to 75 per cent when they’re stir-fried.
Bend over backwards to improve your mood. When researchers rated the mood-altering powers of different yoga poses—such as back bends, forward bends and standing poses—they concluded that the best way to get a mental lift is to bend backwards. Enrol at a local yoga class and look forward to raising your spirits with a back workout.
Eating a small portion of mushrooms each day could cut your breast-cancer risk by two-thirds. A Chinese study found that women who ate at least 10g of fresh mushrooms a day were 64 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer than women who didn’t include them in their diet. The rare reishi mushroom has been known in the Far East for more than 2,000 years for helping the immune system. It: Stimulates the production of T cells—white blood cells involved in protecting the body from infection; Increases the levels of substances that strengthen the immune response; Promotes sleep and reduces stress by suppressing the production of the stimulant hormone adrenalin. Reishi essence—a good way to get the benefits—is available from health-food shops.
Humming To Protect Your Ears
It may sound eccentric, but getting into the habit of humming whenever you approach a loud noise without ear protection will help you hear better in later life. The inner ear has a mechanism to protect itself from noise damage by tensing muscles around the eardrum and reducing the volume of the sound that reaches the inner ear. You can boost this reflex by the simple measure of pressing your lips together and beginning to hum—a process that helps tighten these muscles, protecting your eardrums further. When you’re listening to music, choose your headphones wisely. Small ones that fit inside your ears are bad for your hearing—sound leaks so badly that you’re more likely to turn the volume up to a dangerous level, risking hearing damage. Larger ones that fit over your ears are better, says Deafness Research UK.
Warm Your Feet To Ease The Pain
A simple headache-relief tip is to put your feet in a bowl of warm water. This, the theory goes, dilates the blood vessels in the feet and draws the blood away from your head, which may ease the pain.
Snuff Out Indoor Pollutants With Houseplants
Noxious indoor air pollution kills more people per year than outdoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organisation. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as acetone, ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde and xylene, are given off by a huge variety of modern materials in homes, including carpets, furnishings, paints, treated woods, glues, cleaning products and air fresheners. VOCs are linked to many health problems, such as asthma, nasal congestion, headaches and even cancer. Wisely chosen houseplants reduce the risk by removing toxins from the air. Keep an areca palm, Boston fern, pot chrysanthemum, peace lily, bamboo palm or rubber plant.
Flush It Away
Soya products such as tofu may help relieve troublesome menopausal symptoms—such as hot flushes—according to some (although not all) studies. Try a delicious hot-flush-beating snack of tofu chunks rolled in sesame seeds and fried in a little rapeseed oil.
Hunt Calcium; A Tonic For Cramps
If you suffer from night cramps, drink a glass of tonic water before going to bed. Tonic water contains quinine and is a popular remedy that’s now been backed up by research. However, steer clear of quinine tablets, which can have unpleasant side effects.
Chew It Over
Chewing gum may help quell sweet cravings, suggests a US study. People who chewed sugar-free gum for 15 minutes an hour for three hours and then indulged in a variety of snacks reported feeling significantly less hungry and had fewer cravings for sweet foods than those who didn’t chew gum before snacking. It can also help relieve stress, say Australian scientists. Their study put people through a variety of stress tests while chewing and not chewing gum. The results showed the gum chewers were more focused and relaxed, and better at complex tasks.
Phone A Friend
Mobile phones may boost circulation. An international study on the effects of the electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phones found that these machines could actually be good for the brain. The research, published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, suggests that when exposed to electromagnetic waves, the brain warms up very slightly over a period of months, boosting blood flow and energy metabolism in the brain. Despite the reassurances, many experts remain cautious, and “excessive” mobile use by children should be discouraged, says the UK’s Health Protection Authority.
Start Your Meal With Asparagus
This delicious, starter-friendly vegetable is a rich source of oligofructose, a natural soluble fibre that can curb appetite and trigger the sensation of being full. Dutch scientists found that oligofructose triggers the release of gut hormones that govern appetite, and people who took it as a supplement ate 11 per cent fewer calories in just 13 days. Oligofructose is also found in bananas, onions, chicory, barley, wheat and tomatoes. See if eating these foods reduces your appetite.
You could actually build muscle by eating mustard. Scientists have found that homobrassinolide, a plant steroid in mustard seeds, may trigger a similar response to anabolic steroids, building up muscle mass quickly with virtually no adverse side effects. The research also found that the substance stimulated protein synthesis in muscle cells, leading to increases in lean body mass (the weight of everything in the body that’s not fat) and physical performance.
January issue of Reader’s Digest is out now.
[photo credits: main pic: Israel Papillon; dollen; John Nyberg; Uros Kotnik; ]