Thursday, January 19, 2012

4 Bad Habits that Are Making You Sick

What happens when you don't sleep enough, skip breakfast, don't exercise, or hold grudges? Find out how these behaviors are harming your health.

What happens when I only sleep five hours?

The inside story: No one knows for sure why sleep is necessary, but there's no doubt that getting too little throws a wrench into your body's works. For example, studies show that a sleep debt lowers levels of the hormone leptin, which helps keep your appetite under control. Implication: Sleep too little, and there's a good chance you'll be soon overeating. Sleep deprivation also boosts levels of stress hormones, which prompt your body to send more glucose into your bloodstream. Too little sleep also makes your body less sensitive to insulin.

But that's just the beginning. Research shows that sleeping too little shuts down production of certain chemicals in the immune system that defend your body against germs. Shortchange yourself on shut-eye and you may want to have a box of tissues and cough medicine handy: A 2009 study found that people who sleep less than seven hours a night are up to three times more likely to develop a cold.

Other studies show that even modest sleep deprivation - cutting back from your usual eight hours a night to six hours, for instance - can turn up levels of chronic inflammation, which increases the risk for many conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, and osteoporosis.

PLUS: 8 Things That Are Making You Fat

Then, there are the immediate effects. When the alarm clock blares you out of a deep sleep, you're apt to start the day in a sour mood. As the day passes, you're also likely to feel dull witted and foggy. Some neurologists believe that one purpose of sleep is to give your brain a chance to build and strengthen the wiring between neurons. Studies show that well-rested people learn new information faster and have sharper memories. Short sleep reduces your reaction time, too, making you at risk for car accidents and other mishaps.

BOTTOM LINE: While some people can get by on relatively little sleep, most of us need seven to eight hours a night. Experts say one sign that you're getting adequate sleep is that you can wake up on time every day without using an alarm clock.

What happens when I skip breakfast?

The inside story: When you wake up after a long night's rest, your body has gone as much as 12 hours without a meal. That means one thing: You need fuel. More precisely, it means there's probably a shortage of glucose in your bloodstream. If you don't eat breakfast and head out the door with low blood sugar, one organ in particular won't be operating at full speed: your brain, which requires a steady flow of blood sugar to run effectively. And even a mild case of low blood sugar can leave you queasy and jittery. You may also feel less sharp-witted. Studies of school children have shown repeatedly that kids who eat breakfast have better memories and learn more than their classmates who don't.

What's more, blowing off breakfast is a set-up for pigging out later on. "Breakfast is important for keeping your appetite under control the rest of the day," says endocrinologist Suma Dronavalli, MD, of the University of Chicago Medical Center. In other words, skip breakfast and by noontime your groaning stomach will convince you to skip the salad and order a Dagwood-size sandwich, instead. Most people more than compensate for the calories they miss at breakfast by overeating at lunch and dinner - especially foods high in saturated fat, the kind that plugs arteries.

PLUS: Lose Weight Around the Clock

Meanwhile, breakfast skippers are also more likely to snack on junk food between meals. One study found that women who usually nixed breakfast were able to take off four pounds - simply by adding a nutritious meal in the morning. Eat breakfast regularly and you'll not only lose weight, but your blood sugar should shape up, too.

BOTTOM LINE: More than three quarters of people who lose weight and keep it off eat breakfast. Sitting down for the morning meal may also make you up to 50 percent less likely to develop insulin resistance, the problem that causes type 2 diabetes.

What happens when I spend the day sitting around?

The inside story: Remember that old saying "the devil finds work for idle hands"? Spending a lazy day on the sofa may not seem evil to you, but your body finds plenty of ways to make trouble with the sugar, or glucose idling in your bloodstream. Taking a walk or getting any other type of physical activity forces muscle cells to soak up glucose, which it uses to produce energy. On a day when you don't give your muscles enough work to do, glucose goes unused. Over time, a sit-around lifestyle encourages two major problems:

* Your body converts some unused sugar to fat. Build up too much and your butt, thighs, and belly will expand. The latter flab depository is the most worrisome; research shows that fat cells around the waistline produce chemicals that cause insulin resistance and low-grade inflammation, which promotes heart disease and other conditions.

* Having lots of glucose lingering in the blood increases levels of dangerous compounds called AGEs that damage nerves and blood cells. That's why high blood sugar causes diabetes complications such as blindness and kidney disease.

Getting up off the sofa and heading out the door for a walk can help you to avoid these fates, of course. Exercise is a reliable fat burner and research shows that physical activity lowers levels of AGEs, too - among many other benefits.

BOTTOM LINE: Sitting around all day may help you get caught up on your favorite cable shows, but it is also a set-up for bad blood sugar, weight gain, and all the problems they can cause.

PLUS: 13 Ways to Have More Energy at Work

What happens when I spend the day really angry?

The inside story: There's nothing wrong with getting angry - it's perfectly natural and healthy to get ticked off now and then. Staying angry is another matter altogether: It's terrible for you. Apart from wrecking your mood and alienating others, fuming all day can make it much harder to manage diabetes. Anger is a form of emotional stress, which causes your body to release adrenaline and other related hormones. One effect of these "stress" hormones is to raise blood sugar. Also, stress may make you indulge in bad habits, such as eating junk food, which can make matters worse.

There's more. Letting your anger boil all day can damage your heart. Do you get irked and annoyed now and then, but you're able to shrug it off? No big deal. But scientists now know that clinging to anger raises blood pressure. While that's not a big surprise, a recent Yale study found that people who tend to let their anger stew also have high levels of a substance called endothelin, which is known to trigger heart attacks by causing plaques in the arteries (clumps of fat, cholesterol, and other gunk) to burst open and form blood clots. Other research has found that intense, sustained anger can actually cause an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, which can stop your ticker from ticking - permanently.

BOTTOM LINE: Day-long anger can be toxic, so find a way to let it go. Write down your rage in a journal. If a friend or family member made you mad, tell 'em. Or just go outside and scream - whatever helps you blow off steam.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tofu stir-fried with lemon grass and chili paste

Dau hu xao xa ot
My co-author's husband from made this dish.  It is similar to a dish from a restaurant in South Philly.  It was very quick and easy to make but it turned out to be delicious.

  • 5 pieces of fried tofu, cut in half in triangle shape
  • 1 red bell pepper, slice in any way you want
  • 1 table spoon minced lemon grass
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (or water)
  • Canola oil
Spices: salt, soysauce, vegetarian oyster sauce, sugar, chili paste (available in Asian Market as in the picture below):
Tuong ot


1. The trick for this dish is the cooking heat has to be very high.
2. Add cooking oil, when the oil is hot, add lemon grass.  Stir fry until lemon grass turns golden brown and release fragrance
3. Add bell pepper, stir fry 1 minute.
4. Add tofu, mix well.
5. Add spices to taste, mix well.
6. Pour in broth, stir fry in high heat for a few minutes.
7. If you want your bell pepper cooked well then let it cooked until soft, I prefer it to be crunchy.

Happy cooking and eating:)
Phongloc (Translated by Mai)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Listen Well

Communicating properly has as much to do with listening as it does with talking to someone else. Learning how to be a good listener will help improve all of your relationships.

When you are trying to talk to someone, it can be easy to tune out what they are saying and let your mind wander. Keeping your focus on the person talking, without interrupting them, has to be done on purpose. Looking at them will help you remember to listen and pay attention.

When it's your turn to talk, repeat what you think they were saying. This is important, because sometimes in communication the meaning can get lost in our interpretation. Repeating it as you understood it, asking if you understand what they meant, will give them the opportunity to correct any misunderstanding by rephrasing what they said so the point is clear. It will also keep you from misunderstanding the meaning and getting angry or hurt over it.

After you have the full meaning of what they said, you can respond to the points made. When you are done, make sure the proper understanding is there of what you meant, by carefully listening to them repeat what they heard. If they didn't understand correctly, repeat what you said by rephrasing it.

Tips & Warnings

Being a good listener is important in any relationship. If you communicate well with each other, you will have much less misunderstanding, hurt feelings and arguments.

When you are practicing listening well, it can be difficult to keep your attention focused. Try to make eye contact, and respond once in a while with nodding or in some other way letting the other person know you are listening. Keeping distractions to a minimum will help you focus on the conversation.

Read more: How to Listen Well |

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Foods you should be eating to jump-start the new year

By Sarah Bernard

Sugary cakes. Glazed hams. Egg nog. That’s all behind you now. Wipe the slate clean and start the new year on a healthy note by focusing on vitamin-rich foods that you can incorporate into every meal going forward. “Today” show health expert Joy Bauer came by to talk about the superfoods we should all be eating. Thankfully, her picks are delicious and easy to find. From spicy veggies to protein powerhouses to sweet treats...

The best way to reset your eating habits after the holidays is to stock your fridge with fresh, nutrient-rich foods that give you energy and improve your mood.

These beans are filled with high-quality vegetarian protein and fiber, which boost energy and mood. They’re inexpensive and they cook up in 30 minutes or less. Joy suggests making large pots of lentil soup or lentil chili so you can freeze the leftovers.

Toss some Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, add olive oil and salt, and then bake until they're crispy. We have no doubt they will become your favorite veggie. Added bonus: They're only 55 calories per cup and they help fight cancer and boost memory.

Keeping bags of frozen raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries on hand is a perfect way to make sure you still get antioxidants, especially during the winter months when fresh fruit is hard to come by. Eat them right out of the bag, add them to cereal, or make delicious smoothies.

Hot peppers can suppress your appetite and rev up your metabolism.