Mental Illness Misconceptions

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We all have those moments when we toss around a cliché phrase to keep the conversational ball rolling. Usually, despite its lack of originality, the phrase seems to serve its purpose. Doing so is perfectly normal; it’s a regular part of modern human nature. Sometimes, to identify with those around you, it’s easier to use an oftentimes well-received phrase that will get your point across. However, some of these cliché phrases are not so politically correct. Unfortunately, words used in these sayings can be hurtful, and their use can quite possibly undermine an entire population.

There are far too many expressions that people will say in order to make fun of themselves in a moment of weakness, or perhaps to highlight another person dealing with a similar situation. Often, they inadvertently target a minority population and say things based on misinformation. Many mental ailments are misinterpreted or thought of inaccurately because of these misleading cliché phrases. Here are a few examples that might help you re-evaluate your use of phrases that may misrepresent someone’s daily struggle:

“I have serious OCD; I always need everything to be in its place.”

A lot of the time, people will refer to their tendency toward cleanliness or their intolerance of germs as their own form of OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. You may feel a need to keep your closet color-organized or have to wash your hands 10 times a day, but you don’t have OCD simply because of these personality quirks. People struggling with OCD deal with much more than the stress that comes from something like an untidy room. They feel a deep, anxiety-provoking need to perform rituals based on their obsessive thoughts. These thoughts can range anywhere from fear of catching an illness to the idea that their whole family is going to die. These thoughts dominate their mind until they can find brief relief in the act of performing a ritual, such as washing their hands 20 times in a row or turning every light in their home on and off. It’s a tough life for them and each day brims with severe inner-conflict. If this doesn’t describe you, you do not have “serious OCD.”

“Every time I talk to her, she’s always in a different mood. She’s so bipolar.”

A person who is moody or “hot and cold,” as some would say, does not necessarily have the characteristics of bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness. Yes, manic-depressives do deal with mood changes, but they come in the form of episodes that last at least a week. This means extreme changes in mental state ranging from manic overexcitement to depressive hopelessness, hence its name. Their manic stages could make them extremely happy or extremely angry, while their depressive stages can often bring them deep into a mental black hole. Manic depression also comes with distressing changes in energy, sleep, and other aspects of behavior, making life very difficult for its sufferers and the people around them. 

“I can’t concentrate right now—I’m so ADD.”

This is certainly one of those phrases that people overuse. ADD, or medically termed ADHD, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a disorder that remains present in the daily lives of its sufferers. People with ADHD deal with some combination of severe inattention, distractibility, and impulsivity, depending on which kind of ADHD they struggle with. It’s a complex disorder and requires the expertise of a highly-trained professional in order to diagnose. Those with ADHD tend to face many obstacles in their school, family, social, and professional lives due to their lack of self-control and self-discipline.

“You’re depressed? Why don’t you just do this to get yourself out of it?”

This is not so much a cliché phrase as it is a common misconception. Many people don’t understand the underlying truths of depression, otherwise known as major depressive disorder. A person who is diagnosed with depression is in a state that is much more complex than a period of the “blues.” It is very difficult to just someone to get out of a depression if he or she is truly in one. It is a mood disorder and has a physiological presence, meaning that you can see the effects of depression in a brain scan. It chemically affects its sufferers in a way that makes them feel that life is not worth living. When a person is depressed, it’s physically hard for them to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. It usually requires long-term treatment and interventions ranging from psychotherapy to medication. Depression can be very serious, so it’s important to be careful about how you approach someone suffering from it.

By Melissa Espinal

Hack Your Confidence

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Can I pull this off? Ugh, my legs are too stubby for this skirt. Are they looking at my hair? They probably see how frizzy it is today. Should I say something funny? Wow, I just sounded so ridiculous…

Thoughts like these may float through your head on a daily basis, undetected in the forefront of your mind. You probably brush them off, as they are just an everyday part of your inner dialogue. Sure you may feel uncertain of yourself sometimes, but how low can you go before you hit the proverbial pavement? It is perfectly normal to negatively self-analyze—we all do it—but when your self-talk begins to affect your well-being and hurt your confidence, it’s important to find ways to bring it back. Low confidence levels can be harmful in more ways than one, and can even damage your physical health. There comes a time when you need to fire up your willpower and commit to a few self-confidence-boosting strategies. Here are a few ways you can hack your confidence:

Surround yourself with positivity

Have you ever been caught in a negative thought spiral while at your favorite place or surrounded by your favorite people? Probably not. When you surround yourself by what makes you happy, whether that means going on a beautiful nature walk or spending quality time with your best friends, your mindset allows you to be content in the present. If you are in a happy place, it is easy to stave off negative thoughts. It especially helps if you’re around people who don’t let you forget how beautiful, funny, or talented you really are. The positivity you’ll receive will help remind you of how awesome you are, and how great it feels to love yourself.

Eliminate (or reduce) downers

Inversely, being around negative energy will only make you feel worse about yourself. There will always be a person in your life that’s on a mission to make everyone around them feel as low as they likely do, including you. It’s crucial that you identify these kinds of people and make an effort to avoid being around them when you don’t have to. You can do this by paying close attention to your attitude when you’re around another person. Are they always talking about their body issues? Are they always pointing out the flaws in others? Do they ever point out your flaws? If they are presenting a negative outlook on themselves and others, you are much more likely to begin doing the same. If they are not willing to support your journey toward self-confidence, kick that confidence-killer to the curb and keep walking.

Make a positivity list

When on any introspective mission, it always helps to make lists. Lists are a great way to organize your thoughts and compartmentalize your goals. When on a mission toward self-confidence, you may want to create a list of all of the great things you have going for you. What makes you smile? While you’re in a good mood, start listing everything that is going well in your life. Doing so will not only help you focus on the things that uplift you, it will also serve as a tool to use for any future low points. On days when you’re feeling especially unsure of yourself, you can always refer to your positivity list and remind yourself to keep your head held high.

Distract and diffuse

At some point or another, everybody goes through failure or finds himself or herself at the receiving end of a malicious remark. It is in these moments where it is especially important to protect your inner-confidence by distancing yourself from negative thoughts. Thought distraction is a simple start. Immerse yourself in an activity that will keep you busy, like running in the park or browsing funny videos online. Another way to get out of your head is through thought diffusion, which you can achieve through mindfulness and meditation techniques by focusing on your breath. Remain in the moment and tell yourself to accept the conditions around and within you. In doing so, you can find some very necessary silence for those self-defeating thoughts.

Fake it ‘til you make it

If all else fails, you can always fake your way to the confidence of your dreams. When you look at the mirror first thing in the morning, flash yourself a big smile and tell yourself, “You’re looking hot today.” Whether or not you believe it, keep doing it. Wear clothes that you always say you wish you could pull off. You can totally rock that outfit—put it on and strut out the door paying no mind. Walk with attitude. Even if you’re not feeling too hot, let those you pass think that you know you’re fabulous. Just be sure to keep on smiling; in fact, smile at everyone you see. They are very likely to smile back, making you feel good about yourself, or at the very least increasing the positive energy in the room. Doing little things like these will make a difference, and you’ll begin to notice that your confidence will start building naturally.

By Melissa Espinal

Mind Over Matter

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“Mind over matter” is an abstract phrase that most people have said or heard at some point in their lives. It suggests the ability to overcome bodily forces strictly through the power of the mind. It may sound like a mystical concept to some, but what many people don’t realize is how much control their mind actually has over their body. You can quite literally think your way into high blood pressure or even suppress your own immune system, making yourself more susceptible to illness.

Say you have an extremely important exam coming up and you are stressing yourself out hard. During your various nail-bitingly-long study sessions, anxiety might start to affect your mind: “I have no idea what I’m reading! I’m so going to fail this important test!” Your thoughts are spiraling, focused on that specific stressor. In response, your mind tells your body: initiate stress mode. Stress hormones begin pouring out of your adrenal gland to help you “fight” off this stressor. Each time you suffer from this acute stress, you’re activating and reactivating your bodily systems in ways they don’t normally operate. What your body doesn’t realize is that your mind is tricking it into believing that you are under physical threat (which, evolutionarily speaking, stress intends to do), and your body is equipping you for that.

But your exam is not going to physically harm you and you will not have to prepare yourself to engage in physical combat at the time of your test. Usually in situations like this where you’re not in any real danger, the amount of repeated stress you put on your body can become very harmful to the immune, digestive, and even reproductive systems. In other words, you can think yourself sick.

On the bright side, your mind can also very positively influence your body! Here are a few ways you can ease your mind and overcome stress and stress-induced sickness:

  • Meditation

Meditation involves getting to a peaceful state of mind, and therefore a prolonged state of body relaxation. There are many methods of meditation that could prove helpful in reducing stress and generating an overall sense of well being, but they all center on the idea of focused breathing and the elimination of harmful thoughts. Yoga is a great example of common meditation. Another way to ease yourself into this technique is by using guided meditation, which utilizes guides (recorded or in-person) to help your mind take you on a mental journey, away from your worries. With practice, you can do this on your own.

  • Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a technique similar to meditation that allows you to remain in the present moment, letting your worries melt away. It can be achieved by casually observing (not analyzing) your sensations, thoughts, feelings, and mental images, while sustaining steady breaths. By doing this, you are both slowing down your heart rate and reducing the over-thinking that often leads to stress.

  • Positive Self-Talk

Optimism is a key trait in helping people buffer against the adverse effects of stress. It is linked to positive thinking, which allows you to maintain a healthy outlook on life. By practicing positive self-talk, you can train your mind to improve its disposition. Start by examining your daily thoughts; perhaps even write down thoughts you find significant. You’ll realize how you frame things when you focus on your self-talk. It takes a lot of practice, but if you surround yourself with positive people, keep yourself physically healthy, and make an effort to find humor in your everyday life, you will find that positive thinking will just become your way of thinking.

Stress? Who needs it? Definitely not you. You have power over how stress affects you. Remember: when you matter your mind, you can achieve mind over matter.

By Melissa Espinal

Mythbusters: WTH Edition

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originalYou’re always hearing about what to eat and what not to eat. But sometimes, some of the foods that may seem bad might actually be good for you. Here are the 5 myths that you should avoid when it comes to your diet.

  1. Carbohydrates make you gain weight. Carbohydrates are the biggest supplier of our bodies’ fuel. Of course, carbohydrates that are highly processed like white flour turn to sugar. Instead, look for carbs that have 100% whole grains, such as quinoa, oatmeal, and wild rice. Also, be sure to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day to get the carb’s benefits.
  2. Fat is always bad for you. Believe it or not, fat helps with vitamin absorption, cushions our organs, protects our cell membranes, provides shine to our hair, skin, and nails, and well, makes food taste good. So if you exclude fat from your diet you could be missing out on a lot of benefits.  Avoid the unhealthy saturated fats, such as trans fats, which heighten cholesterol. Instead, look for healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, olive oil, oily fish, seeds, and so on! Also be sure to try and bake, poach, and steam your food for a healthy alternative to frying.
  3. You should avoid snacking.  When you think of snacks, Oreos, Goldfish, and some other fan favorites come to mind. But if you bring healthy snacks into your diet, they may actually be good for you! Snacks help prevent a drop in your blood sugar, which causes you to reach for those Oreos. Instead, snack on low-fat yogurt, hummus and carrots, or fresh fruit with almond butter. Keep the portions small and don’t go longer than 3 to 4 hours without eating — This will help you avoid those night time munchies
  4. Gluten-free is better. Not always. For those with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, yes, gluton-free is absolutely better. But for the rest of us, eating gluten-free removes, iron, B12, vitamin D, and fiber from our diets. Also, most gluten-free foods aren’t fortified with vitamins and minerals, so be sure to find those elsewhere if your on a gluten-free kick
  5. Strenuous exercise is the only way to go. Nope. You don’t need to spend an hour on that treadmill to reap the benefits of working out. Even a 15-minute walk is better than nothing. Although exercise is often used just for losing weight, regular physical activity is never a bad thing! For example, being active for only 150 minutes (2 and a half hours) each week can help prevent the risk of heart disease. Exercise also helps your mental and physical well-being and boosts your immune health.

By Aisling Williams

Photo courtesy of io9.com

The Dangers of Hair Dye

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Are you looking to reinvent yourself this fall? Do you wish to start new and feel your best after a bad breakup or a bad test grade? Well, now you can. Just as quickly as you can change your clothing style, you can change your hair color. Don’t overlook your safety when choosing a hair dye, however. Many dyes are harmful to your scalp and your health. Look beautiful this season without the dangerous chemicals!

Lead acetate, which is found in some hair dyes, is often thought of as a possible carcinogen. Look for salons using ammonia-free, herbal-based, low-PPD, and coal tar-free dyes. These salons view safety as a top priority. Although many dye companies have stopped using some of these harmful chemicals, there are still others that have replaced the old chemicals with new chemicals that are just as harmful. Dyes such as Herba Shine by Garnier are ammonia-free and safer for your scalp.

People who are obsessed with having the perfect color may not choose the healthiest option. Hair dyes such as “Henna” only last six weeks and don’t cover up your old hair color as well.  Temporary hair dyes are also safer because they have organic material. However, they only last one or two washes. The best dye’s, especially if you want to go from blond to brunette, contain PPD which is extremely dangerous for your health. People will continue to buy it because it helps them create that dramatic change they’ve been looking for.

How to be safe:

  1. Dye your hair less frequently
  2. Check if your hair salon has organic dyes
  3. Don’t use dyes with harmful chemicals. Check the box for details.
  4. Don’t keep the dye on for too long.

By Ediva Zanker

Photo Source: beautylifeline.com

To Eat Organic, or Not?

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Eat your fruits and vegetables! This is what you’ve been told since you were four years old. And for good reason – when it comes to health, eating the proper amount of fruits and vegetables is crucial (visit this site to calculate your own requirements). Fruits and vegetables help reduce the risk of cancer as well as ward off other diseases. They provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And they are low in calories and fat and are made mostly of water, which helps you stay hydrated and maintain a healthy weight.

Pesticides used in farming fruits and vegetables have become a source of controversy. Pesticides prevent weeds, diseases, and pests from affecting crops. According to the USDA, 45 percent of the world’s crops are ruined due to spoilage or other damage, and this is why farmers rely on pesticides to produce quality crops. Many debate the importance of buying organic foods, while others simply avoid organic food because of its higher price.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit focused on protecting people from the health risks associated with toxic contaminants, like pesticides. The EWG searched through 100,000 produce pesticide reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to identify those fruits and vegetables highest and lowest in chemical residue. Based on their findings, they created two lists:  the “Dirty Dozen,” and the “Clean 15.”

The fruits and vegetables dubbed the “Dirty Dozen” have 47 – 67 pesticides per serving. Their soft skin makes them more susceptible to absorbing the chemicals. For this reason, you should buy these fruits and vegetables organically grown. The “Clean 15” is a list of the fruits and vegetables with lower amounts of pesticides, which are safer to eat non-organic.

Now, don’t avoid fruits and vegetables all together in an effort to steer clear of pesticides. Instead, aim to buy the foods on the “Dirty Dozen” organically grown. If you’re on a tight budget, maybe it’s for the best you skip the potato chip aisle and invest in the organic apples instead. The few extra cents may save you from health problems down the line.

Here is the “Dirty Dozen,” and the “Clean 15” for you to use as a guideline:

Dirty Dozen:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines – imported
  7. Grapes – imported
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries – domestic
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens

Clean 15:

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe – domestic
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

By Emily Borgeest

Boost Your Metabolism

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“I can’t lose these last pounds because my metabolism is so slow.”

“I can eat whatever I want because I have a great metabolism.”

“My metabolism is just slow today.”

Whatever you’ve heard about metabolism, it almost always has to with weight. But does anyone actually understand what your metabolism does?

Your metabolism consists of a network of hormones and enzymes that convert food into energy and control how quickly that food is changed into energy. This is why people trying to lose weight may blame their metabolisms if they aren’t shedding the pounds as quickly as they’d hoped. A faster metabolism generally means that it is easier for your body to lose weight.

There are quite a few factors that affect your metabolic rate, such as age, sex, and muscle mass. Your metabolism rate naturally slows as you age, slowing 5 percent after you turn 40. Men tend to have a higher metabolic rate than women, and those with a high lean body mass (more muscle and less fat) also have a faster metabolism. Part of it is also just hereditary.

There are a lot of simple ways to boost your metabolism. Eating breakfast helps to jump start your metabolism, and eating often (small snacks) will keep your metabolic rate up all day. Exercise and staying hydrated also helps promote a faster metabolism.

Though your metabolism is an important factor, it is not the only thing that controls weight loss.

By Fiona O’Connor

Get Flossy

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So every year you get your teeth cleaned, and every year the dentist tells you, “Brush your teeth twice a day and floss.” If you’re like me, you that first part and just toss that “floss” bit to the wind. Who needs to floss? Brushing your teeth does the same thing, right? Wrong. Believe it or not, dentists know what they’re talking about. Flossing is a crucial part of maintaining dental hygiene. If you don’t floss, you could end up with some serious problems.

Brushing and flossing reduces the bacteria that creates cavities and bad breath. While brushing your teeth is good and removes the combination of mucus and debris in your mouth that is known as plaque, it doesn’t get all of it. It’s like washing only 65 percent of your body. That 35 percent you skip is the plaque that escapes the toothbrush and ends up in the cracks between your teeth, which then sits and becomes tartar. Although you can remove plaque with a brush or floss, you can’t remove tartar; only a dentist can.

As this tartar builds, more dangerous types of bacteria build up, producing toxins which can irritate and inflame your gums. This inflammation is known as gingivitis, that thing they talk about in Listerine commercials. If left untreated, gingivitis becomes periodontal disease, a condition where that dangerous bacteria and toxins invade not only the gums but also the bone structures supporting it. Yikes! This can lead to bone loss, loose teeth, and subsequently tooth loss. It has also been reported that it increases your risk of heart disease.

So paw around for that dusty container of floss in the back of your drawer and use it today when you brush your teeth. If you don’t, you might end up losing a tooth or two!

By Aisling Williams

Meditate Your Way to a Calmer Life

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You can’t walk around campus without hearing someone complain about how much work they have to do or how stressed they are. Stress is a part of life but, thankfully, there are a lot of ways to get rid of it. One way is meditation.

Meditation has been used for over 5,000 years as a way to find serenity and focus. Originally used by Brahman priests to deepen their religious understanding, meditation is now used by people all over the world as a way to de-stress.

There are many different types of meditation, including guided meditation to tai-chi. The most basic form of meditation involves closing your eyes and either sitting or laying down. Then focus on your breathing and try to forget the other activities you have for the day. By doing this, your mind slows down and allows you to relax. Meditation can last for five minutes or for over an hour, and can be practiced everyday or once a week.

Some may find meditation frustrating at first because it is hard to clear you mind and think of nothing, but practicing meditation will make it easier. If traditional meditation doesn’t work for you there are other, more active ways to practice meditation, like combining walking or prayer with meditation.

Neuroscientists from Harvard and MIT performed research and found that the brains of those who meditated over an eight week period produced more brain waves that suppress irrelevant information. This means they could focus better on work they were doing and better handle stress.

Syracuse University has its own meditation sessions in the lower level of Hendricks Chapel every Monday from 12-1. You can check it out here.

The Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

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For years, coconut oil has been considered “off limits” along with other hydrogenated oils due to its saturated fat content. But researchers have been studying this oil carefully, and have found that coconut oil may not be as harmful as was once thought. Other coconut products such as coconut milk and coconut water are now staples in health food markets due to their abundance of nutrients and health benefits. It seems coconut oil is finally getting the recognition it deserves and will soon be as popular as Vita Coco (coconut water) and So Delicious (coconut milk).

The fatty acids in coconut oil are unique as they are mostly medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are more easily metabolized by the body. These MCTs affect your heart differently; evidence has proven that virgin coconut oil primarily raises the good cholesterol, HDL.

The health benefits of coconut oil are endless. It provides nutrients for hair care, skin care, stress relief, weight loss, maintaining cholesterol, weight loss, increasing immunity, proper digestion, proper thyroid function, relief from kidney problems, dental care, and bone strength. The oil is also high in antioxidants. These benefits are due to the strong presence of lauric acid and stearic acid in coconut oil.  Coconut oil fights fatigue, too, and acts as a natural energy booster.

There are many different ways to use coconut oil. An easy way is to use it in place of butter. Spread it on toast in the morning and if you’re craving something sweet, sprinkle some cinnamon and a sugar-replacement such as Stevia on top. Another option is to add it to water or any sports drink for a workout – it will boost your energy. Incorporate it into your post-workout meal to help with muscle recovery.

Coconut oil is a great addition to smoothies, especially a whey protein shake, which has been proven to fend off hunger, promote muscle building, burn fat and keep your energy up. You can also use coconut oil as you would any other oil to cook chicken, fish, or any other meat. The oil is very resistant to heat, making it a good choice for frying. Or ry melting it and adding it to desserts or in place of cream in coffee. You can also melt it and use it in any baking recipe.

Adding coconut oil to your diet will make you feel more energized while providing you with an abundance of nutrients and health benefits. And best of all, it tastes delicious.

Glycerin in Hand Cream: Good or Bad?

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At the peak of the winter season in Syracuse, along with the large amounts of snow comes dry skin, especially on our hands, which experience biting winds and excessive hand-washing. So we turn to our hand creams, seeking fast-relief and a return to softer, smoother hands. One of the main ingredients in our hand creams, however, is glycerin, which might actually be harming your skin.

Glycerin in its purest form is known as glycerol, which is an alcohol and dries the skin out. Glycerol has been known to dehydrate the skin so greatly that it causes blistering, so beware of products that have this as one of the main ingredients.

It is used in many skin and hand lotions and creams because it is hydroscopic, meaning it draws water from other sources, in this case mainly from the lower layers of skin known as the dermis. This could only be good for skin, because it brings water to the dry, surface layers of the skin, right? Wrong. In reality, this process ends up drying your skin from the inside out. Worse yet, if there is too much glycerin, it ends up creating a invisible layer on the skin, which blocks outside moisture from actually entering the skin.

In smaller amounts, however, when combined with enough water and other oils such as jojoba oil, the effect of this chemical isn’t as harsh. Also, if you naturally have more oily skin, the effects may not be as drastic. Just to be safe, though, be sure to read the ingredients before you decide to buy, or else your hands may end up feeling even more dry!

The Truth Behind Raw Meat

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With the growing popularity of sushi and rare meats, raw food is getting a lot more attention than ever before. The question is, can eating raw food be harmful?

Meat is usually cooked all the way through, which kills many of the bacteria that can make you sick, like E. coli or salmonella. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that all raw meats, poultry, and seafood are cooked to the appropriate temperature.

Some people, known as raw foodists, have started eating raw food because of its reported health benefits. Eighty percent of a raw foodist’s diet consists of fruits and vegetables. Raw foodists choose this lifestyle choice because some foods have a greater nutritional value before they are cooked. Raw foods also tend to be less processed, meaning that they generally have a greater health value.

A study done by researchers at the University of Nottingham in England found that eating steak rare is no less safe than eating steak well-done. After preparing steaks containing E. coli, both the rare steak and the well-done steak were found to have no traces of the bacteria. Researchers found that the actual danger of bacteria is in the preparation of the meat and cross-contamination through different cooking utensils, not in its cooking time. While the amount of time a steak is cooked does not really matter, it is important to thoroughly cook other meats like ground beef and sausage.

More and more people are eating sushi containing raw fish, which can carry many different types of bacteria and parasites. To reduce these possibilities, make sure you are eating only fresh fish and know where it came from. This can give you an idea of what possible bacteria it may contain.

Raw foods are becoming a regular part of our diet, so it is important to know the dangers of eating them. There will always be risks to eating raw meats and proteins, but by handling these foods carefully you can minimize your risk of illness.

By Fiona O’Connor

Stress-Free Finals

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It’s that time of year again – no, not Christmas. It’s finals. Just saying the word makes us feel stressed, which is the last thing we need when trying to study. Here are some ways to relieve stress during exams.

1. Get organized. During this time you may feel overwhelmed with the amount of things you need to do, whether it’s writing a paper or reading that textbook you haven’t touched since September. So to feel a little more in control, make lists and lay out what you need to do down to the last detail. It will calm you down and you’ll get excited when you can scratch things off the list. Mission accomplished.

2. Eat well. No, don’t go for that fifth cup of coffee. Although coffee is great and provides focus, it’s short-lived and you’ll end up crashing and feeling more anxious. Instead, turn to foods like salmon, blueberries, and almonds, all of which give you energy that will last all day.

3. Use self-control – it’s a blessing when it’s time to crack down and focus. Procrastination is the worst thing for studying, and you’ll get majorly stressed when you realize how much you have left to do and how little time you have to do it all.

4. Exercise. Whether that’s running on a treadmill or doing some yoga, exercise provides you with endorphins, which improves your mood, and also allows you to process your thoughts and get out any extra anxiety. Even if it’s just 15 minutes of your time, you’ll feel a lot better.

5. Sleep. This is the most crucial. Although you may feel like you need to pull an all-nighter, not getting enough sleep will leave you forgetful and on edge, and when your taking a series of tests that’s the last thing you need.

By Aisling Williams

Staying Active Over Winter Break

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With winter fast approaching, it is easy to fall into a lazy slump instead of hitting the gym. When the sky is gray, snow is falling, and there is a bitter chill in the air, it’s easy to come up with excuses as to why you shouldn’t get off the couch.

Winter makes many people shy away from outdoor activity, forcing them to rely on an indoor gym. But going to the same gym day after day can get daunting – that ten minutes on the treadmill feels like a half hour. This funk happens to everyone and the best way to avoid it is to make exercise fun by taking advantage of the weather. There are plenty of fun activities available to stay active during winter.

Here are some fun ways to spice up your winter workout:

  • Cross Country Skiing – A fun but intense workout. It involves skiing on a flat surface and is a great cardiovascular exercise. It is a total body workout and can be done with friends and family. Many parks have trails made for this type of skiing.
  • Snowshoeing – Strap snowshoes on and go for a hike. This exercise is just like hiking, but with shoes that are designed for snow. It is also a great cardiovascular exercise. Your favorite summer hiking trails can be enjoyed in winter too!
  • Ice Skating – A less intense workout but still a great way to get moving.
  • Sledding – Yes, sledding is a workout! It isn’t easy dragging your sled uphill after taking a few downhill runs. This is a great leg workout.
  • Bikram Yoga – This yoga class is sure to warm you up. If you don’t like the cold, head inside to a Bikram yoga class. This is a 90-minute class that goes through a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. The room is usually heated to 105 degrees and is a great way to sweat out toxins and stretch out your muscles.
  • Swimming – Indoor pools can provide you with a hint of summer during the long winter.
  • Shopping – Turn shopping into a workout! Take a walk either outdoors or indoors at the mall.
  • Wii – if you have access to one, Wii makes many games for exercise as Just Dance and Wii Fit.
  • Enjoying the snow – Go outside and have a snowball fight, build a snowman, make a snow angel or help mom with the shoveling.

It doesn’t matter which activity you choose as long as you do something. So avoid a lazy winter slump and get moving. Trying one of these fun activities with friends or family will you help motivate one another to stay active. Remember, it’s easy to stay fit and have fun at the same time.

By Emily Borgeest

The Truth About Kale

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Most people hear the word kale and either don’t know what it is, or they do know what it is and make a face that indicates disgust. What people don’t know is that it has a tremendous amount of nutritional value and tastes delicious, too. It is versatile and can be prepared in many ways.

Kale, also known as borecole, is a type of cabbage, which is part of the cruciferous vegetable family. There are both green and purple types. Other, more familiar vegetables of this family are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.

Kale has proven to lower cholesterol as well as to reduce the risk of five different types of cancer – bladder, breast, colon, ovary and prostate. It can also help with the body’s detoxification process. The isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from kale’s glucosinolates help to eliminate toxins from the body.

One cup of raw kale contains only 36 calories with a whopping 5 grams of fiber, 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 and 200% of Vitamin C. Kale is also high in beta-carotene and Vitamin K.

The great thing about kale is that its peak season is during the cooler months, making it a perfect winter vegetable. When choosing kale, look for firm and dark colored leaves with thick stems. Store it in an air-tight plastic bag in the refrigerator, where it will keep for five days.

Kale can be eaten raw, steamed or sautéed. It has a mild taste but can be slightly bitter. Here are some ways to enjoy kale:

  • Use it in a salad with toppings of your choosing and your favorite dressing.
  • Add it to whole-grain pasta with pine nuts, feta cheese and a little olive oil.
  • Sauté with olive oil and garlic, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Make kale chips by slicing kale into bite-size pieces, drizzling with olive oil, and sprinkling with salt, pepper, garlic or onion powder, cayenne pepper, or even cheese! Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
  • Steam or braise it, then add any mix-ins such as apples, chopped walnuts, raisins, dates, avocados, tomatoes, or balsamic vinegar.
  • Use in omelets or frittatas.

Many people have never heard of kale or know nothing about it, but for those who want to be healthy, it is a vegetable that should be eaten frequently. So, if you’re sick of eating broccoli and Brussels sprouts to meet your vegetable requirement, try kale and you are likely to be pleasantly surprised!

By Emily Borgeest

Birth Control – To Take or Not To Take?

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Whether you take “the pill” or are considering taking it, there are always a few questions floating around this oral contraceptive.

Let’s begin with the question of the pill’s effects on our skin. It first depends on what kind of pill you are taking – whether it is one that increases or decreases your testosterone levels. Those that increase the levels increase our production of sebum, which is the stuff that clogs our pores and thus leads to more zits. To keep your skin clear, look for a testosterone-decreasing pill that contains artificial estrogen, which produces a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin that lowers sebum production.

What about the effects on your weight? Many girls believe that the pill they are taking has caused them to gain or lose weight. Here’s the truth: Birth control does not physically make you gain weight. Those pills containing high estrogen levels cause you to retain water, and thus cause bloating. These increased estrogen levels also cause an increase in breast tissue growth, which explains why you feel like your breasts are bigger than ever. However, these days there are pills on the market that contain a much lower level of estrogen, some even containing a diuretic, which prevents water retention. Sadly, ladies, there is no birth control that will cause you to lose weight.

Another side effect of the pill is mood swings, which are considered hormonal. Although some women aren’t affected by these changes in mood, many are. This is due to a spike in estrogen levels. Using a progesterone cream has been shown to keep your estrogen levels steady, as well as your mood. Or try a different form of contraceptive, like the ring, patch, etc. Some of these aren’t hormonal and could keep you at an even keel.

Every woman is different, and the pill is not for everyone. Check out your options before starting birth control.

By Aisling Williams

High Heels – Worth the Pain?

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Every girl loves a cute pair of shoes. Flats and boots dominate on campus during the day, but when the sun goes down the heels come out – the higher the better. Other than the obvious challenges of high heels, like climbing SU’s snowy hills, heels can actually be very harmful for your feet and the rest of your body.

The biggest problem with heels is that they don’t provide any support, meaning that it is easy to lose your balance or sprain an ankle. Heels cause you to lean forward, placing most of the pressure on the balls of your feet. High heels increase the pressure normally placed on your feet by 76 percent, causing back pain or even deformities to your toes.

If you regularly wear heels, your feet will become used to the unusual positioning. Because the heel of your foot is elevated, the tendons in your leg may shorten over time, so wearing flat shoes will become painful.

Women will continue to wear high heels, despite their negative effects, but there are ways to prevent injuries. The best thing you can do for your feet is to wear heels in moderation, rotating between flats and heels, or saving the high heels for special occasions only. The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society suggests wearing heels two inches or shorter. If you feel like you can’t give up your four-inch heels, look for shoes with more straps, which will give you better ankle support. Platform heels and wedges can also give you more height while providing balance.

If you’re like me, you can’t imagine getting dressed up without a good pair of heels. My four-and-a-half-inch black booties were a staple in my wardrobe, regardless of the painful walks home at the end of the night. You don’t have to give up heels altogether, but skip the stilettos every so often and try some flats.

By Fiona O’Connor

Healthy Apps

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I remember when smart phones were considered a novelty, but now it seems that everyone has them. With smart phones there come thousands of new apps, so why not find some apps that help your health? I found these free apps that will help make your life easier and healthier, too.

Everyday First Aid (LITE)

This app lists various injuries, their causes, symptoms, and cures. Each injury is organized by topic and if the injury isn’t listed you can add it. There are a lot of apps similar to this one, but the Everyday First Aid app works without WiFi or 3G so even if you’re on top of a mountain you can still figure out how to fix up your scraped knee or tend to that snake bite.

 

RunKeeper

RunKeeper is an app that lets you track how far you run, walk, or bike. This app allows you to create a profile with all of your personal information and then uses this profile to track your exercise. It has a GPS that tracks how far you go, measures how fast you are moving, and how many calories you’re burning.  You can also sync playlists through this app and upload your progress onto the website.

 

Whole Foods Recipes

This is an amazing app that gives you tons of different recipes. You can search different meal subjects with specifications, like gluten free or vegetarian. The app will give you a list of delicious choices to choose from. When you click on one dish it shows a picture of the dish, a description, and gives ingredients and cooking instructions.

 

WebMD

This is basically the app version of WebMD (if you couldn’t tell by the name) but in a simpler format. The homepage has different categories, such as symptom checker and local health listings. The symptom checker lets you put in your personal information along with your symptoms and see what you might be suffering from. WebMD also lets you browse different medications or make a list of your own treatments.

 

Hot Body Yoga

I was hesitant about any app that lays out workouts for you, but this app gives different yoga poses as well as specialized workouts. If you choose a workout, the app will show each pose and count out how much time to hold each pose. The workouts vary from beginner to advanced, so even if you don’t know much yoga it’s pretty easy to make it part of your day.

By Fiona O’Connor

How to Keep Those Whites Pearly

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Everybody wants to have clean teeth. If you brush your teeth twice a day you’re doing all you can, right? Wrong. What we eat plays a lot in to our dental health and hygiene. Here’s what to look for and what to avoid:

The Best

1. Fiber-filled fruits and veggies. Look for foods like celery, peppers, spinach, apples, berries, and bananas. These foods stimulate salivation in your mouth (yes, a little gross), which naturally cleans your teeth, preventing cavities and decay. After you eat, saliva helps neutralize the acids and enzymes that are attacking your teeth.

2. All things dairy. That means milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. The calcium and phosphorus in these foods restore lost minerals to your teeth.

3. Green and black teas. These teas contain polyphenols, which help destroy the plaque that builds up on teeth and creates acids that attack our teeth.

4. Sugarless gum. It may be less tasty, but it also helps activate those saliva glands to clean our teeth.

5. Fluoridated foods. AKA anything that has fluoride, like tap water, some bottled water (it will say on the bottle), and dehydrated soups. Remember fluoride rinses in elementary school? It’s the same thing, only natural.

 

The Worst

1. Soda. Soda contains sugar, allowing for cavities to build, as well as citric and phosphoric acids, which break down tooth enamel.

2. Raisins. Yes, they contain iron, but they are also high in sugar. Even worse, they are very sticky, so that sugar sits in your teeth and causes cavities.

3. Starchy foods. Foods like white and other soft breads and potato chips stick to teeth, where they break down into sugar and then acid, both of which are harmful for teeth.

4. Gummy and sugary sweets. That means all gummy candies, things with caramel, and hard candy, too. Although they are great in taste, they also have high amounts of sugar,and build cavities. Luckily, chocolate’s sugar is coated in fat, thus slipping out of teeth. Yay!

5. Acidic foods. Foods like lemons, tomatoes, and orange juice all are high in acidity, which break down the enamel on teeth.

By Aisling Williams