Avocado: Not Only a Healthy Fat
Often mentioned as a source of healthy fat, avocado can do much more. Turns out, its vitamins, minerals, and fats reduce a combination of symptoms that triple risk for type 2 diabetes and multiply risk for heart disease by five times. Called metabolic syndrome, that combination of risk factors includes high blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and obesity—and avocado reduces all of them, according to several studies reviewed in the journal Phytotherapy Research. Perhaps best of all, it’s a tasty snack or addition to salads, sandwiches, dips, and spreads.
Go Camping, Sleep Better
As little as one weekend of camping can reset circadian rhythm—our internal body clock—and make it easier to routinely get a good night’s sleep, both during and after the vacation. So say researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, who compared sleep effects of backcountry camping with a weekend off in the city.
Electric lights and screen time, with TVs, smartphones, and other devices, keep us up late by delaying production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. “Late circadian and sleep timing in modern society are associated with negative performance and health outcomes such as morning sleepiness and accidents, reduced work productivity and school performance, substance abuse, mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity,” says lead researcher Kenneth Wright, PhD. However, he adds, “A weekend camping trip can reset our clock rapidly.”
To find places to camp, visit the National Park Service at nps.gov.
Fit Kids are Smart Kids
Strong muscles in kids correlate with better memory, according to a study of 70 kids between the ages of 9 and 11, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Earlier studies have found that being aerobically fit improves kids’ thinking ability, attention, memory, and academic performance. Bottom line: kids need both aerobic and strength-building activities during their school years.
Tea Good for Bones
Milk is the beverage most often associated with bone health (although not everyone tolerates dairy), but it turns out that a cuppa tea is also good. A Chinese study, published in the journal Nutrition Research, analyzed results from 16 studies with a total of more than 138,000 people and found that tea increases bone mineral density, which helps reduce
risk for osteoporosis. Some, but not all, studies also showed a reduced incidence of fractures among tea drinkers. Earlier research has found that tea may reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, and problems with the immune system.
Elderberry: More than a Cold Remedy
A popular natural remedy for preventing and treating colds and coughs, elderberry has been used medicinally to improve immune function since the 17th century. But recent research shows that it can also improve metabolism of sugars and starches, potentially helping to prevent type 2 diabetes. A Norwegian study of human muscle cells, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that elderberry enhances the uptake of sugars, which reduces the odds of elevated blood sugar that can lead to diabetes. Although the research is preliminary, it’s promising. Elderberry can be found in a variety of herbal tea blends. Hot or iced, these can be delicious alternatives to unhealthy sugary drinks such as sodas.
The youngest age at which children should be exposed to media screens—TV and other electronic devices—is 18 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Video chats, which are popular with grandparents and other relatives who live far away, are the only exception.