In health, simple works

What does "good health" mean to you? How far are you willing to go to acquire it?

What's amazing, and no one seems to talk about this much, is we really don't have to go all that far. Even when you're tethered to a difficult diagnosis and your health is compromised, there are simple things that can make you "feel better"¦ feel healthy."

Here's to your health. Let's start by having a snack. I think it's a well hidden fact that snacking leads to improved health. I favor grabbing energy in food form throughout the day. If I get a little energy boost I'm less likely to overeat at the next meal of the day. So, I have a container of good-for-me, high-protein almonds on my desk at work — with a little quarter-cup measuring scoop to be sure I do not go "too nutty." I gave up on dried fruit — too much concentrated sugar. (For example, one cup of dried blueberries has approximately 600 calories while a cup of regular blueberries has about 80 calories.)

Let me reveal that my absolutely favorite snack is a Popeye Power Smoothie. It's a combination of pineapple juice (1/2; cup), orange juice (1 cup), plain or vanilla yogurt (1/2; cup), one banana and two generous cups of fresh spinach leaves. There are variations on the recipe — you can use berries or add more yogurt, but the spinach is a must.

We frequently make these smoothies in our Oregon State University Extension nutrition classes. I'll be making them at our Sept. 13 all-day open house (569 Hanley Road between Jacksonville and Central Point). I promise you — they're delicious. (You can hardly even taste the spinach.)

Another easy-do hint for good health "¦ move more. So you say, "It's too hot to walk this time of year." Not if you do it at 6:00 in the morning or 8:30 at night. Thirty minutes every day will almost guarantee a loss of weight, improve your cardiovascular capacity and give your attitude a little boost. Aw heck, 30 minutes seems like too much? Start with five.

There's another simple thing. Floss your teeth regularly. It's something centenarians (people who have lived to 100 years and are functioning handsomely) have in common. By the way, healthy centenarians are also socially connected. And that's another way to stay healthy. (For example, how many old friends have you telephoned or written a letter to this week?)

Yet another idea, healthy people take naps — 10 minutes can be like a vitamin pill (unless you're eating one of those spinach smoothies on a daily basis, you might want to take one of those, too).

And finally, exercise your mind. The brain responds and changes in positive ways when you expose it to new learning. Push yourself cognitively. This too can be simple. For example, if you're right-handed, try signing your name with your left hand for a day.

Every day at least one person probably asks, "How are you?" And you respond with, "Fine" or "I'm well, thank you."

So, stay that way.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human services at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.

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