Friday, September 25, 2009

The Collection: Healthy Anti-Aging Skin Care

Many skin care products in today's market can leave you broke, especially those claiming to have anti-aging properties. A line I favor, Dr. Andrew Weil's for Origins, is a superior and expensive line. How I get around paying a ransom, is to assess the line and whittle down the choices until I'm left with the 2 to 3 products I truly need for my skin. For me it comes down to three Plantidote Mega-Mushroom products: Face Serum, Face Lotion and when it's part of a kit, Face Cleanser. Next I wait for them to appear as a special promotion, usually called a "starter-set." This happens several times a year {often Mother's Day and Christmas} at a special money-saving price. Then I buy one or two of the sets at $52-$60. It's cheaper – not cheap, but a reasonable value for an exceptional skin care line with healthy all-natural ingredients.

Dr. Weil, a Harvard Medical School graduate, is famous for combining mainstream and alternative medicine. To maintain healthy skin, he stresses good nutrition, drink lots of water and consume fatty acids. Along with other leading dermatologists and doctors, Dr. Weil recommends protecting your skin from the sun, and taking a daily, anti-oxidant, vitamin and mineral supplement. [Click here to read which vitamins doctors recommend.] 

He cautions against using harsh soaps. Such irritants can dry out and damage the skin. Inflammation is another cause of aging, says Dr. Weil. His mushroom-based skin care products are formulated to fight this problem. They are rich in multi-anti-inflammatory agents like ginger, turmeric, holy basil, resveratrol and argon nut oil. 

So the million dollar question is: Can you reverse aging? Unfortunately, no. You can't. But with good habits and proper skin care, you can maintain healthy skin at every age. All of the profits from Dr. Weil's line goes back into his foundation, which supports integrative medicine around the USA.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Consider The Shape Of Your Foot

Last week I walked into The Walking Company, a shoe store and was approached by a salesman. He asked, "Can I help you find your soulmate?" No, he wasn't moonlighting as a matchmaker; he wanted to figure out what type of arches I have. [Ahh, sole mate.] Your arch tells you what kind of shoe is best for your foot. I stepped onto an electronic gizmo that produced my footprints. It was impressive and cool, but you can perform the test at home without the gizmo to get the same information. Here's how: 1} Pour water into a shallow pan, 2} Step in to wet the soles of your feet, 3} Step out and make left and right footprints on a flatten brown paper bag. 

Now look at your footprints. There are three main types of arches, and each one requires shoes that offer different kinds of support:

1) Flat
You see almost all of your footprint.
You have low arches and tend to over pronate, meaning you roll inward excessively. This can cause injury when walking or running. So look for shoes labeled “motion control.” They offer more structure (or barriers) to prevent your arches from rolling inward.

2) Normal
You see about half of your footprint.
You have medium arches and are a normal pronator. Your arches collapse inward just as they should do to absorb shock when you move. You can wear almost any shoes. But shoes marked “stability” or “neutral” arch support will prevent you from over pronating and cushion against shock.

3) High
You see your toes, the ball of your foot, a missing section and your heel.
You have high arches (the rarest type). This means you tend to under pronate when walking or running. Buying shoes labeled “neutral-cushioned” will encourage high arches to pronate safely and softens the blows of your steps.

Now that you know your own foot, you are ready to find your sole mate and live happily ever after.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chocolate Was Once A Beverage For the Rich

Chocolate dates back centuries -- to 1100 BC. It was treasured like gold from the beginning of recorded history. The Latin name for the cacao tree, which produces the beans that are turned into chocolate, literally means “food of the gods.”  The Aztec Indians, who introduced chocolate to Spanish explorers as a foamy, bitter, spicy drink, also used cocoa* beans as currency. Back in the day, you could buy a rabbit dinner for 4 beans, the services of a prostitute for 10 beans and a slave for 100 beans. The sacred drink arrived in Spain in 1529, where it was sweeten with sugar and became a favorite of royalty. 

By the 17th century, chocolate was popular throughout Europe. It was believed to be a powerful elixir of love and good health, but it was still a beverage for the upper classes. Not until the invention of the steam engine was chocolate mass produced and available to everyone else. The chocolate bar, as we know it, was created in 1847 by Joseph Fry in England, who added cacao butter to cocoa power and sugar. The bitter taste was removed with alkalis. People liked it so much, they started eating chocolate, as well as, drinking it. By 1868 the Cadbury Brothers sold boxes of chocolate candies in England. And milk chocolate was invented by Swiss candy maker, Daniel Peter, in 1875. It hit the market under the Nestle company name a few years later.

Today the taste of fine chocolate is still determined by the origin and type of cacao beans along with the the techniques used in processing. Just like wine, good chocolate has hundreds of flavor nuances.  Only dark chocolate has healthy heart and anti-aging properties. Their health benefits come from flavonoids [anti-oxidants] in cocoa beans. The darker the chocolate, the richer in flavonoids.  A portion size is one ounce. If you can limit yourself to a single serving of the best chocolate, you will satisfy your tastes without expanding your waist. Good luck!

Here are a few favorite chocolates to try:
Lindt - Made with the finest cocoa beans and ingredients at a super value. New York's flagship store on Fifth Avenue offers 2 for 1 deals, plus plenty of free samples.
Cadbury - Very flavorful chocolate, but their bars keep shrinking. What's up with that?
Christopher Norman - For pretty, innovative boxed collections and hand painted & sculptural truffles.
Lake Champion - Fresh all natural chocolates from Vermont. Gourmet chocolate squares and truffles.
La Maison du Chocolate - A premier Paris Chocolatier. Pricy, but made with luxe ingredients. Great for gifts.
Neuhaus - For world famous, real Belgium truffles.

*The word "cocoa" is a derivative of "cacao." A cocoa bean is a dried and roasted cacao bean-like seed.
photos: cacao tree: mdweb and box of chocolate candies: Constance Cheng

Friday, September 4, 2009

Vitamins For Your Health, Is Expensive Better?

Do you wake up each morning and reach for a fix of vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements? I know I do. Right after breakfast, I pop a multi-vitamin, usually a Theragran-M into my month. Then later in the day, I take extra calcium, vitamin D with magnesium and a fish oil capsule. But is it necessary? After all, except for occasional indulgences … like french fries! or nachos!!, I eat healthy meals. And I also mix it up, eating a variety of different foods, colors, fruits and vegetables each day. So do I need the supplements too? Well as it turns out, the answer is probably yes. Many doctors think supplements are a good idea to make sure we get all the vitamins and nutrients that may be lost by the time our food reaches our plates, or that we just don't get enough of in the foods we eat.

Most doctors agree, you don't need to buy fancy vitamins. Dr. Mehmet Oz, co-author of the books, “You, The Owner 's Manual,” says it's fine to buy “straight forward, inexpensive vitamins” like those found in a drugstore. He tells readers to purchase vitamins from the big companies. The better known companies are not likely to cheat you on the amount of vitamins listed on the label. You want to be sure "the vitamins are in there" as claimed. For the amount of each vitamin recommended check here. The one area Dr. Oz differs from what is routinely recommended by the FDA and vitamin companies is the amount of vitamin D an adult needs. Dr. Oz and new studies say the standard is too low. Instead, we should get at least 1,000-1,200 IUs per day. Vitamin D should be combined with 1000 mgs of calcium, plus 500 mgs of magnesium so your body can absorb it. And if possible it's best to divide your dose of vitamins and supplements, and take them twice a day. Some doctors, including Dr. Oz, believe DHA-Omega 3 fats are good for your brain. If you don't eat salmon or sardines twice a week, the consensus is, you can take a daily DHA-Omaga 3 pill.

As Dr. Oz notes, “Most of us could get all our nutrients from our diets," but the reality is, "most of us don't” in the foods we eat. So unless you're that rare person who eats right every single day and can be sure the apple you eat today has all the nutrients it did a hundred years ago, “you're better off taking supplements just to be safe.”

And as we focus on staying healthy, America is debating a safety net of another kind: universal health care. Here's what Roger Ebert, the noted film critic who has battled cancer for several years, has to say about the proposed reforms. It's worth a read. Click here.