Sleep it off: Fighting stress

With finals looming around the corner, we all try to find ways to keep the stress at bay. Whether it’s eating, exercising, music, meditation, yoga or cooking, everyone tries to find a way to keep stress levels low and stay sane in these last few days. To all the seniors graduating in a couple weeks, kudos! You’re almost there.

Although this might seem counterintuitive, my best recommendation for keeping stress at a manageable level is sleep. Sleeping is the best way to reduce the effect stress has on our body. Of course, eating healthy and being as active as possible help immensely too!

First off, stress. What really is it, and how does it affect me? In reality, a certain amount of stress is actually healthy — it keeps us alert and ready to avoid danger. However, experiencing continuous stress without enough relaxation or rest can be extremely harmful to the body.

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Stress can cause headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, chest pains, skin conditions, high blood pressure and sleeping problems. Apart from effects on the body, stress can also affect a person’s mood and behavior. Anxiety, restlessness, lack of focus, irritability and even sadness are common effects of stress.

This is why sleep during these last couple of weeks is imperative to anyone’s health if they’re experiencing higher levels of stress. There are a multitude of benefits that come from sleep. Sleeping can help improve memory, reduce inflammation across the body by reducing inflammatory proteins in the blood, spike creativity, help stamina, sharpen attention and improve your mood.

A couple interesting facts about stress, according to WebMD:

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a workplace hazard. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
  • The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.

When going to the doctor, many people think they are treating the cause — but in reality, it’s only the symptoms they’re curing. It’s a never-ending cycle!

Being smart about your sleep has so many benefits, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t do it. Napping and getting your eight hours of sleep during finals will help you tackle these last days successfully.

Don’t forget, stress can be dangerous if it goes unchecked. Make sure you’re sleeping, drinking plenty of water and being as active as possible to ensure you make it to graduation — or simply just summer break — in one piece!

Fight the stress and stay healthy, Devils!

Power Salads: a punch of energy and nutrition

During this last month of school, stress levels begin to rise, I feel the hours of the day slip through my fingers, and the cries from my stomach go unanswered. Many days I just feel like I don’t have enough time. Other days because I’m just too lazy to make myself a healthy lunch so I eat out … again. With work, school, homework, projects and a million other things we students have going on, it’s hard to find the time and energy to eat something healthy.

I’ve been looking for an answer to this eternal lunch/snack problem. I think I finally found my answer, and hopefully yours — power salads. They are easy-to-make fast snacks, and are perfect for on-the-go days.

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Thanks to Pinterest I was introduced to power salads. These salads are no new concept. They have been around and will always be. However, finding a couple of these recipes has been a lifesaver.

Usually when people say they’re having a salad for lunch, everyone assumes it’s a healthy choice, but with the amount dressing or the choice of vegetables (or lack thereof) salads can be a sneaky unhealthy dish. So first, the basics. How is a power salad different from a regular salad?

Power salads include one to two cups of leaves (lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, etc.), plenty, plenty of different vegetables (think big splashes of color) and a good source of lean protein like chicken, ham, turkey, fish or beans. You can also include a small source of starch like croutons, pasta or even potatoes. For dressing, keep it on the lighter side using lime juice or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Salads are easy to make, can be prepared in advanced and easy to take with you on the go! I’m seriously in love with these awesome recipes.

Here are a few recipes I particularly love from I’ve changed and adapted some of these recipes to fit my budget and preferences.

1. Caesar Salad
Not your typical Caesar salad! Instead of anchovies, I add canned tuna.

2. Egg and Nut Salad
I choose to take out the firsee (a type of leaf) from this recipe.

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3. Waldorf Revisited
I just swap out the ranch dressing for something lighter, like a splash of lime juice.

4. Chicken and Grape Salad
A delicious salad with grapes, almonds and avocados. I love the different flavors, the sweetness and the crunch. You have to try this!

5. The New Nicoise Salad
I know the name sounds flashy but this recipe is great, lean and delicious! I swap out the arugula for romaine lettuce and take out the olives.

Like I said, these salads have been a lifesaver. I prepare them the night before or early in the morning. Most, if not all, of the ingredients are conveniently easy to find and even easier to make.

These power salads offer a great solution during these last weeks of school when the workload picks up and the days seem to get shorter.

Eat up and stay healthy, Devils!

Going Raw

While being on the search for the next healthier option I came across something I’ve heard of before but wasn’t really ready to try: going raw, meaning changing my diet to consist of at least 80 percent raw foods — meaning fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts, roots and anything that is cooked at temperatures below 115 degrees.

This concept is definitely nothing new but it has been on a steady incline, being more and more “mainstream.” There is a plethora of resources, blogs and websites designed to provide recipes, resources and information about a raw diet.

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Raw vs. Cooked 

Medical literature on a raw-food diet is scarce. However, the few studies that have been done have shown that a raw diet helps reduce the risk of multiple types of cancer. Research has also made people aware that cooking foods lowers their nutritional value, stripping them of many of the vitamins and minerals they possess. Heating food above 118 degrees causes the chemical changes that create acidic toxins, including the carcinogens, mutagens and free radicals associated with diseases like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.

It has been found that raw diets are full of nutrients, rich in fiber and low in fats and sugars. But medical professionals warn that raw foodists need to make sure they’re getting enough vitamin B12, calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids, most of which are found naturally in animal products. Studies done on people who followed a raw diet showed they had a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can be harmful.

The Benefits 

The studies that have been done about a raw diet have shown there are health benefits associated with eating more raw foods such as fruits and vegetables. Some of these were reducing the risk of oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophageal and gastric cancers, s well as improving or reducing the risk of diabetes and obesity-related health issues.

Since the studies on the benefits of a raw diet are still scarce in the medical world, I took it to the blogs. Searching through the web you find a multitude of blogs describing the benefits and changes, the before and after of people going raw. Many bloggers going raw have described benefits such as:

  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Clearer and healthier skin
  • Reduces health risks
  • Weight loss 

Should You Go Raw?

Many people deem the raw diet as extreme or unhealthy. There are concerns about vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and detoxification side effects. However, if one is truly interested in going raw, there are websites that outline a healthy way to ease into this diet. Studies show great health improvements by going raw for just 30 days.

While searching for the next healthy option and improving my overall health, I’ve found that doing things in moderation is what has yielded amazing results. Going completely raw is, I admit, quite difficult. But there is something that just made sense to me about eating higher quantities of raw foods.

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So just by consuming raw foods, meaning fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds in higher quantities than normal, it’s already shown amazing health benefits for me, including clearer skin, more energy and better sleep! Eating a bigger portion of veggies a day sounds a lot better than it used to when I was a kid.

Don’t be scared to push yourself and try new things.

Stay healthy, Devils!

Resources: Educate Yourself About Going Raw

Raw Food Diet
30 Day Trial – Going Raw
Zen Habits – 10 Reasons Why
Rawmazing – Why Raw?
WebMD – Raw Food Diet

The happy yoga lifestyle

I know there are some people out there who may think yoga is another health trend, but from my experience, that couldn’t be more wrong. Yoga has been practiced for over 5,000 years and has spread with many different varieties and sub-types all throughout the United States.

Ever since I discovered yoga and the benefits of how it made me feel, there was no turning back. Being a beginner at yoga can be a little difficult, but yoga comes with a multitude of health benefits. There are a variety of yoga classes, studios in the downtown area and a huge amount of options online.

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After starting with yoga myself, it took about two weeks of practicing for me to really start feelings its effects. I started feeling a little soreness in new muscles I had never really stretched out before, my flexibility increased with each session, my breathing deepened and I was filled with a general feeling of goodness and tranquility.

Research on yoga and its health benefits are still in its early stages but it has had a promising start. It has been shown to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and heart rate, heighten metabolism rates and for those who reported to have insomnia, help with sleep. Yoga has demonstrated to alleviate specific kinds of pains as well such as migraines (something I suffer from frequently), lower back issues and even arthritis.

Yoga was designed to bring together the different disciplines of the mind and the body through slow, controlled movements and breathing.  Those are the two main focuses of any type yoga and will be in any yoga class. I found breathing the hardest. It’s not something people usually focus on, and while doing new yoga poses is more easily overlooked. Remember to always breathe.

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This is not the type of exercise that is mastered in a short amount of time, and it’s not one with lighting-fast results.

But that’s the purpose of yoga. It’s to teach us how to take things more slowly, to take a pause in our everyday life and find peace within ourselves.

Don’t let this discourage you! Yoga isn’t some trend exercise; it’s a lifestyle change. You may do as many sessions as you want per week or as few as you want. Take your time, find the time to make a small pause in your busy schedule and I’m sure you’ll see the results.

Practicing yoga, despite it being a safe non-aerobic exercise, does come with a few risks. If you do decide to try it out, you should remember to:

  • Warm up before every session. Cold muscles increase the chance of injury.
  • Know your limits. Before beginning any new type of exercise be sure to know what it demands of your body to avoid harm.
  • Take it slow. Yoga is an exercise for the mind and the body, helping to ease stress and condition your physique. Remember, it is not competition. Learn the basics of how to maintain proper balance and breathing before going headfirst into any session.

Stay healthy, Devils!

The Paleo Diet: a healthier lifestyle

After a plentiful holiday season with family and friends, many of us are feeling the aftermath of those delicious holiday meals. With the new year well under way, some people are looking to make a healthy lifestyle change, while others may just be looking to shed those extra pounds.

Whatever the motivation behind this lifestyle switch, there is an option out there that is not only healthy but that has also been around since the Paleolithic Era: the Paleo Diet, or, as some call it, the Caveman Diet.

This diet mimics the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors who ate meat, fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs and berries. The premise is that evolution has genetically molded us to eat like our predecessors 10,000 years ago.

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No one likes counting calories or carbs. No one likes being told what they can’t eat. By making an immediate or progressive switch to this diet, not only will you lose those extra worrisome pounds, you’ll also see a number of other benefits.

According to Dr. Loren Cordain, author of “The Paleo Diet,” some benefits of the Paleo Diet are higher levels of energy and higher levels of alkaline (thanks to all those fruits and veggies) that result in better resistance against diseases like osteoporosis, asthma or hypertension. The Caveman Diet also improves your blood sugar and insulin levels, which improve your chances against diabetes and all those “itis” diseases.

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Still interested? Here is what the Paleo Diet entails.

The goal is to consume as much meat, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetables as possible while avoiding an excess of starches, grains, dairy, processed foods and salt. Although eliminating potatoes, rice, cheese or milk might be hard for most, some doctors recommend keeping these foods to about 20 percent of your intake. This way you’ll still ease those cheese or potato cravings while still fueling your body efficiently.

Here is a typical Paleo day:

Breakfast: A healthy omelet filled with mushrooms, onions, peppers and broccoli. You can even add some turkey or slices of chicken.

Lunch: A salad with any kind of vegetable you like! Top with either lean meats or seafood. For example, try mixing spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, avocados, carrots and almonds with some turkey or chicken.

Dinner: Switch the regular spaghetti for squash spaghetti. Then top with meatballs and marinara.

Pretty simple, right? Whether you decide to make the switch or not, aiming towards a healthier lifestyle is always a great choice. Exercising regularly, never eating anything in excess and keeping a positive attitude is already a healthy lifestyle.

Stay healthy, Devils!

For more information on the Paleo Diet and recipes, visit the Paleo Diet site.