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April 01st, 2020
Healthy Lifestyles

oatmealOatmeal is one of many options people have when sitting down to breakfast each morning. Though brand name cereals or staples like bacon and eggs might be the most popular choices at the breakfast table, few foods pack as nutritious a punch as oatmeal.

Instant oatmeal might be found in the pantries of many households. But it’s important to note that packets of instant oatmeal are often loaded with sodium and sugar, which can compromise the nutritional benefits of the oats. In fact, WebMD says some instant oatmeal packets contain as much as eight teaspoons of sugar per serving. Store-bought plain rolled oats, or steel-cut oats, are typically nutritious and low in both sugar and sodium. For example, Bob’s Red Mill® Extra Thick Whole Grain Rolled Oats contain just one gram of sugar per serving and no sodium.

Oatmeal can provide a great start to your day and pay other dividends as well, though it’s important that consumers read package labels so they are getting the nutritional benefits of whole grain oats without the added sugar and sodium. The following are three of the many ways a morning bowl of oatmeal can benefit your body.


  1. Oatmeal can help lower “bad” cholesterol. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. And it doesn’t even take much soluble fiber to reap such benefits. Five to 10 grams of soluble fiber per day has been shown to decrease low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is commonly referred to as “LDL” or “bad” cholesterol. A single serving of Bob’s Red Mill® Extra Thick Whole Grain Rolled Oats provides 1.6 grams of soluble fiber, helping people get a healthy head start on lowering their LDL throughout the day.


  1. Oatmeal is loaded with vitamins and minerals. 

The online medical resource Healthline® notes that oats contain a well-balanced nutrient composition that can help people get well on their way to consuming their recommended daily intake of various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. For example, half a cup of oats contains 41 percent of the RDI of phosphorous and 20 percent of the RDI of iron. That same serving contains 51 grams of carbohydrates and 13 grams of protein.


  1. Oatmeal can help people maintain healthy weights.

Oatmeal, so long as it isn’t instant oatmeal, is one of the rare foods that’s both filling and low in calories. That makes it an ideal choice for those who want a filling breakfast that won’t affect their waistlines. Oatmeal is filling because of its fiber content. Unlike other carbohydrates, fiber does not break down into sugar once it’s consumed. When fiber is consumed, it absorbs water and takes up space in the stomach, leading to feelings of fullness that can prevent overeating.

The nutritional benefits of oatmeal make it a must-have item for anyone who wants to start their day off in a healthy way.


polarplungeCome wintertime, polar plunges are sponsored by various organizations. Such events may serve as fundraisers for club operations or to help needy individuals, while others may simply be efforts to fend off cabin fever.

While no one can say for sure who originated the polar plunge, the first recorded Polar Bear Swim took place in Boston in 1904. In Canada and the Netherlands, it has become tradition to host plunges on New Year’s Day. Even people in the southern hemisphere participate, with plunges off the coast of New Zealand and Antarctica in June. In the United Kingdom, a “Loony Dook” takes place in Scotland, with several thousand people attending the event and taking the plunge after New Year’s Eve celebrations. The largest plunge in the United States is the Plungapalooza in Maryland, which includes 12,000 swimmers, all of whom are there to raise funds for the Special Olympics.

Polar bear swims are not for the feint of heart, and even the most stalwart (and cold-tolerant) plunger can employ a few strategies to make the swim a success.

  • • Prepare in advance. Build up your cold tolerance in the bathtub or shower. Cold water may cause some people to hyperventilate. Acclimating to the sensation can make it less shocking when it’s time to get in the water.
  • • Exercise caution if you have a heart condition. Experts in medicine at Mount Sinai Medical School say that, following cold shock, the body will do something called a diving reflex. This means constricting blood vessels to direct more blood flow to the heart and brain, which causes an increased cardiac workload. 
  • • Walk slowly into the water. Rather than running and diving in, slow enter the water to acclimate your body to the cold and mitigate some of the shock.
  • • Make it a brief stint. Only stay in the water for a few minutes. Doctors say that cold water incapacitation can begin within five minutes of entering the water. Hypothermia requires being immersed for 30 minutes or more to set in.
  • • Bring along warm clothes. You’ll need to warm up quickly after the plunge. A terry cloth bath robe, thick wool socks, heavy sweater, and a hat can help restore body heat.
  • • Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can give off a false feeling of warmth and heat in the body, advises Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani at Indiana’s Ball State University. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the limbs at the expense of the core. It also may interrupt the body’s natural shivering response. Warming up with some scotch is not adviseable before or after the plunge.

If health ailments do not preclude a person from plunging, it can be an exciting way to spend a few wet minutes.  

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bellyfatThe way to a person’s heart may be through his or her stomach in more ways than one. Doctors have tied heart health to the abdomen, and having extra pounds around one’s middle can be detrimental to cardiovascular well-being.

Excess visceral fat in the belly, something doctors refer to as “central adiposity,” may have potentially dangerous consequences. While the link between belly fat and heart health has long been associated with men, women may be even more vulnerable to the adverse health effects of belly fat. A study published in March 2018 in the Journal of the American Heart Association examined 500,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69. Participants had their body measurements taken, and then were kept track of for heart attack occurrence over the next seven years. During that period, the women who carried more weight around their middles (measured by waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio or waist-to-height ratio) had a 10 to 20 percent greater risk of heart attack than women who were just heavier over all.

Belly fat is particularly dangerous because it doesn’t just include the insulating, or subcutaneous, fat under the skin. It is largely visceral fat that also surrounds the organs in the abdomen. Harvard Medical School reports that visceral fat is metabolically active and has been strongly linked to a host of serious diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and dementia. Visceral fat is like an endocrine organ that secretes hormones and a host of other chemicals linked to diseases that can affect adults. One substance is called retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4), which has been tied to an increased risk of coronary heart disease. In 2015, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that normal-weight people with excessive belly fat had a higher risk of dying of heart disease or any other cause compared with people without central obesity.

The online health and wellness resource Medical News Today says doctors determine belly fat to be a problem when a woman’s waist measures 35 inches or more and a man’s 40 inches or more. MRIs also can be used as a fat analyzer and will be judged on a scale of 1 to 59. A measurement of 13 and under is desireable. 

The Mayo Clinic advises that poor diet and fitness habits can contribute to belly fat. As people age, they may have to make more drastic changes to their diets and exercise regimens to counteract changes in their metabolisms. Eliminating sugary beverages, watching portion sizes, counting calories, doing moderate aerobic activity daily, and choosing healthier foods can help tame visceral fat. Also, doctors may recommend those who are stressed to try stress-busting techniques, as stress also may be tied to excessive belly fat.

Belly fat should not be overlooked, as its presence can greatly increase a person’s risk for various diseases. 

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