10 Instant Health Boosters

10 Instant Health Boosters

Say Yes to Yogurt
Spooning up just two ounces of yogurt a day can help protect you from developing gum disease, say Japanese researchers. Why? They say the lactic acid in yogurt could be responsible for helping keep your mouth healthy by reducing germs that can lead to gum disease. Yogurt is also full of probiotics or the good bacteria that strengthens the body’s natural defenses and keeps your intestines running smoothly

Grab a Cup of Cocoa
Drink more cocoa and you’ll help your heart, immune system and brain health, says a new study just published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. A cup of cocoa a day can also help you lose weight. That’s because the flavanols work to reduce the amount of carbs and fat your body digests. That’s also why it’s best to drink a cup before eating. Researchers say about 375 mg of flavanols daily will do the trick — that’s about the amount in one cup of cocoa made with real chocolate (not the powdered stuff).

Chill Out
Most of us gravitate towards a steaming hot, sauna-like shower when we want to relax. But here’s the thing: standing under cold water tells the brain to release feel-good hormones like serotonin which decreases the likelihood of stress, says Wayne Andersen, M.D., an internist at Johns Hopkinsand author of Dr. A’s Habits of Health. “Stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease so in addition to feeling good, it’s good for your heart,” he says. You don’t have to shiver. Just two to three minutes in a luke warm or cool shower or refreshing (not heated) pool is all it takes to feel better, he says.

Get Your Bag Off the FloorSure, you already suspect the toilet handle in a public restroom or the shopping cart at your local grocery store to be breeding grounds for germs. But your purse?

Stuart Reeves, Ph.D., director of research and development for Embria Health Sciences says the bottoms of our beloved bags have bacteria counts in the tens of thousands per square inch — including several species of bacteria that can cause staph and other infections. Salmonella and E. coli, the causes of food poisoning, are also common residents on the bottom of purses. “Four out of five purses tested positive for salmonella,” he says. Reeves thinks it’s because we set our bags down on germy surfaces like movie theater or public restroom floors. He suggests keeping a pack of antibacterial wipes in your purse to give the bottom of your bag a good cleaning — preferably once a day. Better yet, keep it on your shoulder or lap — once it’s clean. Leather and vinyl purses are easier to clean which is why Reeves suggests ditching cloth purses.

Clean Your Car
When’s the last time you cleaned your dashboard? Dashboards of cars in hot and humid climates are home to gigantic amounts of bacteria, according to research by microbiologist Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona. The dashboards of cars in areas where the mercury dips below 32 degrees on a regular basis (the Northern half of the US) were dominated by yeasts and molds – which love the cooler climate. Your dashboard can hold onto millions of germs for a long time because a car’s air circulation system drives air over the dashboard. The result? Germs are free to breed undisturbed, explains Gerba.

He suggests cleaning your dash often to reduce the chances germs will take up residence and lead to the flu, colds and viruses, respiratory illnesses and even strep throat. Use an antibacterial wipe at least once a week. And make sure to clean things like radio buttons, turn signals and the headlight on/off switch. Germs live there, too.

Freshen Up Your Produce
Your veggies and herbs look fresh and hydrated thanks to the misters in the grocery store produce department. But Reeves says those irrigation spouts are often filled with dirt and bacteria. And since the organic produce is sprayed with the same system, your organic broccoli is getting a bacteria bath every 10 minutes. “Many of these systems recycle the water so the bacteria is continually sprayed,” says Reeves.

What can you do? Never leave your produce in the store-provided plastic bags you used to tote them up to the check-out lane, especially if you have asthma or some other respiratory condition. “Having asthma or respiratory illness makes a person more susceptible to developing colds or illness after breathing in the bacteria-laden mist,” Reeves says. At home, wash and pat dry all produce before eating or putting it in your fridge.

Get Rosy
Here’s an easy way to boost your mood and cut down on stress: Wear something bright. When researchers at İstanbul’s Kültür University looked at the impact colors have on a person’s mood and psyche, they found pink and yellow are the colors most likely to snap you out of a funk, help stave off depression and reduce stress. The news is especially good since stress is a leading contributor to heart disease.

“These colors also elicited feelings of being cheerful, warm and confident,” says Banu Manav, assistant professor and one of the study’s lead researchers. To boost your mood, Manav suggests surrounding yourself in these “happy” colors. “Paint a wall, put pink or yellow flowers on your desk, or even keep a pad of sticky notes in pink or yellow can create the happy affect,” he says.

Skip Soap DispensersInfection-causing bacteria was present on 23 percent of public and restaurant restroom refillable soap dispensers, according to Gerba. Sure, most of those germs might disappear when you wash your hands, but if you happen to have a paper cut and touch the germy soap dispenser, it could leave you at risk for a host of infections. Unless the soap dispenser is hands-free, you’re better off using the hand sanitizer you’ve stashed in your purse (the one you keep off the floor). And once your hands are clean, don’t forget to use a paper towel to turn off a faucet that’s not hands-free since that’s filled with germs, too.

Break For Breakfast
You know it’s good at balancing your energy levels and curbing mid-day hunger pangs, but new research offers another reason to start your day with a healthy breakfast. The vitamin B12 and folic acid found in fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals could help fight off canker or “cold” sores. After examining the diets of people prone to canker sores, researchers at the University of Connecticut found they all had low levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid. “These deficiencies can cause inflammation of the tongue and mouth and that leads to a canker sore,” Dr. Andersen says.

Just one cup of a fortified whole-grain breakfast cereal has about 400 micrograms (mcg) per day of folate and 100 mcg of B12, the amount Dr. Anderson recommends, per day, to fight off cankers.

Fill ‘er Up
Add this to the many reasons to drink more water. Drinking plain old unflavored tap can boost your energy, suggests a recent study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Water increases the activity of the sympathetic — fight or flight — nervous system, which raises alertness and energy expenditure,” says the study’s lead author, David Robertson, M.D.

There’s another added benefit to drinking water: weight loss. The increased energy we feel from drinking water can help promote weight loss, Dr. Robertson says. “It might be as much as five pounds a year if you drank three 16 ounce glasses of water a day.”

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