Northwest NEWS

February 7, 2000

Home & Garden

Top tips for winter health

by Dr. Angela C. Hein, naturopathic physician

   Get at least eight hours of sleep; children need 10 hours per night. Getting to bed on time is the key. Warm baths, relaxation tapes, a good book, and adequate exercise are all helpful for good sleep. Sleeping well is the first step in waking rested on these dark mornings.

   Drink enough water. It's time to reacquaint ourselves with water. Add lemon to your water to potentiate the cleansing effect. In the winter, it's tempting to drink more caffeine; unfortunately, it won't improve the weather or your health, so try some flavorful herb teas for the winter chill.

   Balance your blood sugar (otherwise known as "curb the treats"). Now that all the holiday sweets are eaten, your immune system can get back to work warding off illness and you can better maintain your weight for the rest of these short, dark days. Take a small amount of protein at each meal and/or small protein snacks in mid-morning and afternoon to keep from falling back on sugary snacks or caffeine to boost your energy. Nuts, hardboiled eggs, yogurt, peanut butter in celery, fresh fruit, or fruit smoothies are good options to low-nutrition snacks such as pretzels, cookies, chips, and sweets.

   The time is ripe for root veggies. Yams, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, etc., are all wonderful sources of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. And while these veggies are "hearty," they are not heavy. As a general rule, in cold weather, warm foods are best. These vegetables make a wonderful addition to any winter soup, stew, chili, or pasta sauce. Hint: Winter is a great time to get veggies into kids, chopped minutely or ground up: parsley, carrots, celery, spinach, and tomatoes can fortify favorite dishes.

   Exercise is best done in the morning or early afternoon during these short days. Indoors or out, it is good to keep a three-times-per-week commitment for 45 minutes, 15 minutes of which is at top heart rate. Winter warm-ups include indoor weight training, stationary bike, cardio-glide, yoga, Akido. For home workouts, videos are available in all your favorite activities from stretching, yoga, aerobics, dance, to kick-boxing with the celebrities. Camaraderie is a wonderful tool, and there isn't anyone you know who couldn't also benefit from some healthy physical activity. So don't be shy, carpool.

   Don't forget to have fun. Fun is stress-relieving and relationship-building. Get out for dinner, movies, walks, seminars, anything that you really enjoy with people you enjoy.