Go ahead. Fire up the grill and feast to your heart’s content on your favorite barbecue fare. Just use these prep-and-cook methods to healthy up things first.
Rethink your marinade: Rather than drown meats in spices and high-fat oils, make fruit juice, vinegar, or wine the focus of your marinades. Going light on the oil but heavy on the spices and acids will add plenty of moist flavor to your grilled meats without all the extra calories. Plus, marinated meats produce far fewer carcinogenic by-products during high-heat cooking. (Related: Try this EatingWell recipe for tangy Lemon-Pepper Marinade.)
Make over your burgers: Might sound strange, but tart cherries make for juicier, tastier, more healthful burgers. Just mix one-third cup of chopped tart cherries into a pound of ground turkey or beef before forming your patties for the grill. Your burgers will not only have less fat but also produce 90 percent fewer heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) – carcinogenic by-products that form during high-heat cooking. (Related: Here’s a spice that cuts back on those same by-products too.)
Turn down the grill: Here’s a more direct method for cutting down on those unhealthy grilling by-products: Turn down the heat. And cook the low-and-slow way. This helps curb the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), troublesome little compounds that can age you faster and shorten your lifespan. Use a thermometer to make sure you’ve cooked your meat to a safe internal temperature. (Related: Try these 10 tips for fighting aging.)
Ready to fire up the grill? Check out EatingWell‘s collection of healthy barbecue sauce, marinade, and spice rub recipes.
The easiest way to get your mind off that hot fudge sundae is to picture this instead: a white sandy beach in Tahiti.
Or a scene from your favorite movie. Or a slow dance with your honey under a starry sky. Just picture something — anything — delightfully pleasant that isn’t food related. Research suggests that doing so can help stop a craving, fast.
Just Imagine . . .
In a recent study, college students were asked to vividly picture themselves engaged in a well-loved activity every time a food craving came up and to maintain the alternate image until the craving faded. Compared with control groups using other craving-quelling techniques like distraction or mentally challenging tasks, the daydreamers experienced a much more dramatic nosedive in both the strength and vividness of their food cravings. Researchers suspect that because the students employed their senses — like sight, sound, and smell — when imaging the enjoyable activity, it took the edge off their food urges and made the craved item seem less real. (Related: Find out how your TV remote can help you crush cravings for junk food.)
Give It Time
Interestingly, despite a weakening of their cravings, the college kids practicing the visualization technique didn’t eat less of their yearned-for foods during the short 4-day study. But the study authors suspect that would be the next logical result or step in a longer study if the students practiced the visualization habit for a longer period of time. And even if daydreaming only diminishes the intensity of food cravings, that’s a great start to getting a handle on them. (Related: Here’s a creamy food you can indulge in and still lose weight!)
Reducing your risk of stroke with healthier foods doesn’t necessarily mean a bland and boring diet. The benefits of avocado and pesto fit the bill deliciously.
Need a few ideas to get the full benefits of avocado and pesto? Use the pesto in place of cream-based pasta sauce and the avocado in place of cheese on your sandwiches, and you’ll be doing your body double favors. Reducing saturated fat and focusing on unsaturated fat are two great ways to lower your triglyceride levels. And it turns out that may be pretty important to your risk of stroke.
Blood for the Brain
We know that high blood pressure is bad for our stroke risk. But high triglycerides? Yep, research confirms it. In a new study, people with the highest triglyceride levels had between a twofold and a fourfold higher risk of stroke compared to people with the lowest triglycerides. It’s not clearly understood how triglycerides raise stroke risk, but the study authors think that triglycerides may contribute to artery clogging and that artery clogging is just as bad for your brain as it is for your heart. Because if the brain’s supply of oxygen-rich blood gets cut off, you’re looking at a stroke. (Related: Here’s another brain-protective dinner option that may lower triglycerides and blood pressure.)
More Stroke-Stopping Strategies
Enter the benefits of avocado. And pesto. And nuts. And fatty fish. Replacing some of the saturated fat in your life with unsaturated fat is a good way to help lower your triglyceride levels. So is reducing the amount of sugar in your diet, eating sensible portions sizes, and eating high-fiber whole grains instead of refined grains. Keep in mind, though, that a healthy diet is just one part of the protect-your-brain-from-stroke equation. Follow these other noggin-protective steps, too:
- Watch your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke. Enjoy this juicy summer treat to help tame your BP.
- Kick the habit. Like lovers who can’t bear to part, smoking and the risk of stroke go hand in hand. Use this quit-smoking plan to end that romance for good.
- Resist gravity. The kind that keeps your butt glued to the couch. Find out how just three short bouts of easy exercise a week could help stymie strokes.
- Drop a few. Shedding those excess pounds can also shed your risk for stroke. In fact, weight loss is one of five healthful habits that can lower stroke risk by a whopping 80%.
Learn what boosts the odds that you or a loved one will suffer from major depressive disorder.
Major depression (also called clinical depression, major depressive disorder, or MDD) doesn’t discriminate between different types of people. Anyone — men, women, and all age groups — can become depressed, but several factors can increase your personal risk of major depression:
- You’re female. Women are about 70% more likely than men to have depression during their lifetime, and for women between the ages of 25 and 44, the risk is even higher. Experts believe this is due to a combination of hormonal changes, social and cultural problems that affect women, and added stress from work, parenthood, and caregiving.
- You have a family history of depression. Major depression can affect you even if you don’t have a family history of it, but you’re more likely to become depressed if you have a relative (especially a parent, sibling, or child) with depression. Current research shows that the risk for clinical depression is most likely a result of both genetics and other life factors.
- You’ve had major depression in the past. More than 50% of people who experience major depression become clinically depressed again. That’s because depression is a disease that often returns. The right treatment can reduce the chance of a relapse and keep repeat episodes of major depression as short as possible.
- You’ve experienced a lot of stress. The stress of divorce, the death of a loved one, or other painful experience can raise your risk of clinical depression. The same is true for traumatic childhood events, which can trigger major depression in adults. If you’ve ever been depressed or have a family history of depression, your risk of getting depressed due to grief or stress may be even higher.
- You abuse alcohol, drugs, or nicotine. People with depression often use drugs and alcohol to feel better, but do you know that substance abuse may actually raise your risk of depression? Experts think drug abuse may lower the brain’s ability to deal with stress, making you more vulnerable to depression and making episodes of depression more severe.
- You don’t have strong social support. When it comes to your health — mental and physical — there’s something to be said for having good friends and family around when you need them. Not having enough support is a risk factor for major depression. In turn, if your depression isn’t treated, it can get in the way of good relationships.
- You have a chronic illness or take certain medications. About 10% to 15% of depression cases are caused by a medical condition, such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or rheumatoid arthritis. Some medications can also raise your risk of major depression.
Experts don’t know exactly why some people get major depression and others don’t, but they do know that some risk factors can make you more vulnerable to experiencing it. Depression can affect the way you feel, both physically and mentally. If you feel depressed or have key risk factors, talk to your doctor. With the right treatment, you can take control of major depression.