Eat Healthier When You Eat With the Seasons

Seasons form a natural backdrop for eating. We look forward to apples and gourds, pumpkins and squash in the fall, local strawberries and fresh ears of corn in the summer. But there are practical and healthy reasons to celebrate foods that are in season. That’s when you get the most flavor and nutritional value. It’s also the time when it is the most affordable. Additionally, you’ll enjoy the greatest freshness when you look for foods that are both locally grown and are in season.

All of the world’s healthiest foods are seasonal. For ecologists, seasons are considered a source of natural diversity. Changes in growing conditions from spring to summer or fall to winter are considered essential for balancing the earth’s resources and its life forms. But today it’s so easy for us to forget about seasons when we eat. Modern food processing, high-tech storage and worldwide distribution networks make foods available year-round, and grocery stores shelves look much the same in December as they do in July. And with the growth of supermarkets and an ever-widening smorgasbord of imported food, the link between what we eat and when it’s in season has almost disappeared.

Consequently, nutritionists and environmentalists are increasingly concerned that what we gain in choice and convenience we lose in health benefits, leading to a call for a movement back towards seasonal eating. Food that’s in season not only tastes better, but may contain ingredients that suit the body’s needs for that time of year, such as summer fruits with their high fluid content.

In a research study conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in London, England, significant differences were found in the nutrient content of pasteurized milk in summer versus winter. Iodine was higher in the winter; beta-carotene was higher in the summer. The Ministry discovered that these differences in milk composition were primarily due to differences in the diets of the cows. With more salt-preserved foods in winter and more fresh plants in the summer, cows ended up producing nutritionally different milks during the two seasons. Similarly, researchers in Japan found three-fold differences in the vitamin C content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter.

A guide for eating seasonally

To enjoy the full nourishment of food, you must make your menu a seasonal one. In different parts of the world, and even in different regions of one country, seasonal menus can vary. But here are some established principles you can follow to ensure optimal nourishment in every season:

  • In spring, focus on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of this season. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including Swiss chard, spinach, Romaine lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil.
  • In summer, stick with light, cooling foods in the tradition of traditional Chinese medicine. These foods include fruits like strawberries, apples, pears, and plums; vegetables like summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and corn; and spices and seasonings like peppermint and cilantro.
  • In fall, turn toward the more warming, autumn harvest foods, including carrots, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic. Also emphasize the more warming spices and seasonings including ginger, peppercorns, and mustard seeds.
  • In winter, turn even more exclusively toward warming foods. Remember the principle that foods taking longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly. All of the animal foods fall into the warming category including fish, chicken, beef, lamb and venison. So do most of the root vegetables, including carrot, potato, onions, and garlic. Eggs also fit in here, as do corn and nuts.

In all seasons, be creative! Let the natural backdrop of spring, summer, fall and winter be your guide.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Primary Care Emphasis and Incentives Pay Off in Workplace Wellness Programs

Employers are taking control of health care costs by creating smart, effective new strategies to keep employees healthy and to keep employees at work during tough economic times. And, according to a recent national wellness survey, employees who take control of their health and are more engaged and active in their own health management are more valuable assets.

Despite tight economic times, paying employees to participate in worksite health and wellness programs is a common and successful practice among employers of all sizes to boost program success and return value. Almost two out of three U.S. companies offer programs to keep employees healthy, and 66 percent of those offering programs also use incentives, with a healthy number showing an ROI of greater than $1 for each dollar spent.

The findings are part of a survey conducted by Health2 Resources, a health marketing and public relations company, to determine what activities employers incentivize, and how success and return on investment is measured. The web-based survey of 372 small, medium and large U.S. companies employing 1.8 million employees was conducted to determine the prevalence of employer-based programs to keep employees healthy and the use of incentives within those programs as a tool to encourage participation, engagement and program completion. This past year many small-to-midsize companies were included in the survey, not just larger organizations. The survey explored several new trends, such as the role of primary care in prevention and health-management programs, and extension of programs to spouses and children.

Key findings:

The use of a confidential health history/questionnaire is an important starting point for worksite wellness and disease management. Two out of three employers ( large, mid-size and small) offer a health risk assessment to employees, and nearly three out of four of those offer incentives to take it. Incentives to take the questionnaire range up to $300 annually, with about 10 to 15 percent exceeding $300.

Smoking-cessation programs are the most popular health and wellness program offered. More than half of employers surveyed (53 percent) offer smoking cessation to employees, but weight management and physical activity programs are not far behind. 

Perks matter. The value of incentives is up, averaging $329 in 2009 and ranging from $1 per pound for weight loss to annual premium reductions valued at more than $1,500. The most commonly used incentive is premium reductions, followed by merchandise/tokens and gift cards. Employers offer cash and gift cards to spouses and family to keep them healthy. More than half of the companies surveyed offer health and wellness or disease management programs to spouses and a third extend the programs to other family members.

Company size matters, but doesn’t dictate value of incentives and investments in wellness. Among large employers, a bigger percentage offer programs and incentives when compared to small and mid-sized companies.  However, results count, and employers are counting. The percentage of companies successfully measuring return on investment for health and wellness programs has sharply increased over the years, from 14 percent in 2007 to 73 percent in 2009. Some 83 percent of those who have measured say the programs return better than 1:1 on their investment. In growing numbers, employers are rewarding goal achievement during and after health and wellness program completion.

“Employers are becoming more sophisticated about measuring the return on investment from wellness and disease management programs, and today’s economic outlook dictates that these programs bring a positive ROI,” said Sean Sullivan, president and CEO of the Institute for Health and Productivity Management. “No other kind of health management program has been given the same scrutiny as health and productivity management in measuring its effectiveness in reducing total health-related costs, including sick days, disability claims and impaired performance at work. Employees are too valuable a human capital investment for companies to take their health and productivity for granted.”

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?

How much caffeine is too much? If you rely on caffeine to wake you up and keep you going, you aren’t alone. Millions of Americans start their days with one of more cups of coffee. We love the routine, the smell of brewing coffee, and that first cup, whether made at home or purchased during the day.

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, alleviating fatigue, increasing wakefulness, and improving concentration and focus. But when is too much of a good thing just not so good anymore?

When to consider cutting back

For most healthy adults, moderate doses of caffeine – 200 to 300 milligrams (mg), or about two to four cups of brewed coffee a day – aren’t harmful. But some circumstances may warrant limiting or even ending your caffeine routine.

If you drink four or more cups a day, take note. Although moderate caffeine intake isn’t likely to cause harm, too much can lead to some unpleasant effects. Heavy daily caffeine use – more than 500 to 600 mg a day – may cause

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Stomach upset
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

Coffee and caffeine in other forms – such as in tea, soda and chocolate – may make you jittery. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than are others. If you’re susceptible to the effects of caffeine, just small amounts – even one cup of coffee or tea – may prompt unwanted effects, such as restlessness and sleep problems.

How you react to caffeine may be determined in part by how much caffeine you’re used to drinking. People who don’t regularly drink caffeine tend to be more sensitive to its negative effects. Other factors may include body mass, age, medication use and health conditions such as anxiety disorders. Research also suggests that men are more susceptible to the effects of caffeine than are women.

How caffeine can interfere with sleep and medications

Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night. But caffeine can interfere with this much-needed sleep. Chronically losing sleep – whether it’s from work, travel, stress or too much caffeine – results in sleep deprivation. Sleep loss is cumulative, and even small nightly decreases can add up and disturb your daytime alertness and performance.

Using caffeine to mask sleep deprivation can create an unwelcome cycle. For example, you drink caffeinated beverages because you have trouble staying awake during the day. But the caffeine keeps you from falling asleep at night, shortening the length of time you sleep.

Additionally, certain medications and herbal supplements may interact with caffeine. Here are some examples.

  • Some antibiotics. Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and norfloxacin (Noroxin) – types of antibacterial medications – can interfere with the breakdown of caffeine. This may increase the length of time caffeine remains in your body and amplify its unwanted effects.
  • Theophylline (Theo-24, Elixophyllin, others). This medication – which opens up bronchial airways by relaxing the surrounding muscles (a bronchodilator) – tends to have some caffeine-like effects. Taking it along with caffeinated foods and beverages may increase the concentration of theophylline in your blood. This can cause adverse effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and heart palpitations.
  • Echinacea. This herbal supplement, which is sometimes used to prevent colds or other infections, may increase the concentration of caffeine in your blood and may increase caffeine’s unpleasant effects.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether caffeine might affect your medications. He or she can say whether you need to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet.

Curbing your caffeine habit

Whether it’s for one of the reasons above – or because you want to trim your spending on pricey coffee drinks – cutting back on caffeine can be challenging. An abrupt decrease in caffeine may cause caffeine withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability and nervousness. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually mild and resolve after a few days.

To change your caffeine habit more gradually, try these tips:

  • Keep tabs. Start paying attention to how much caffeine you’re getting from foods and beverages. It may be more than you think. Read labels carefully. Even then, your estimate may be a little low because not all foods or drinks list caffeine. Chocolate, which has a small amount, doesn’t.
  • Cut back. But do it gradually. For example, drink one fewer can of soda or drink a smaller cup of coffee each day. Or avoid drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day. This will help your body get used to the lower levels of caffeine and lessen potential withdrawal effects.
  • Go decaf. Most decaffeinated beverages look and taste the same as their caffeinated counterparts.
  • Shorten the brew time or go herbal. When making tea, brew it for less time. This cuts down on its caffeine content. Or choose herbal teas that don’t have caffeine.
  • Check the bottle. Some over-the-counter pain relievers contain caffeine – as much as 130 mg of caffeine in one dose. Look for caffeine-free pain relievers instead.

If you’re like most adults, caffeine is a part of your daily routine. And most often it doesn’t pose a health problem. But be mindful of those situations in which you need to curtail your caffeine habit.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

You Can’t Control Genetics, But You Can Control Your Lifestyle

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked. National Cholesterol Education Month is also a good time to learn about lipid profiles and about food and lifestyle choices that help you reach personal cholesterol goals.

Heart disease and cholesterol

High blood cholesterol affects over 65 million Americans. It is a serious condition that increases your risk for heart disease. The higher your cholesterol level, the greater the risk. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens your risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease.

How cholesterol causes heart disease

When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, this buildup causes arteries to restrict or block blood flow to the heart. Blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if enough blood and oxygen cannot reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.

High blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms; many people are unaware that their cholesterol level is too high. That’s why it is important to know your cholesterol numbers.

Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens the risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of a heart attack or dying of heart disease, even if you already have it. Cholesterol lowering is important for everyone–younger, middle age, and older adults; women and men; and people with or without heart disease.

Understanding what your cholesterol numbers mean

Everyone age 20 and older should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years. It is best to have a blood test called a “lipoprotein profile” to find out your cholesterol numbers. This blood test is done after a nine- to 12-hour fast and gives information about your:

  • Total cholesterol (less than 200 is desirable)
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol – the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries (less than 100 is optimal)
  • HDL (good) cholesterol – helps keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries (the higher the number the better. Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in women is considered low)
  • Triglycerides – another form of fat in your blood (less than 150 considered normal)

What affects cholesterol levels?

A variety of factors can affect cholesterol levels. These are things you can do something about:

  • Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level go up. Saturated fat is the main culprit, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level.
  • Weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.
  • Physical Activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.

There are things you cannot do anything about but which also affect cholesterol levels. These include:

  • Age and Gender. As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.
  • Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.

The more you understand how cholesterol works and the role of genetics and your lifestyle options, the better your chance of living a long, healthy life.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Fall into Walking for Low-Impact, High-Benefit Results

As cool evenings and shorter days approach, we anticipate the richness of Autumn, in all its majestic color and beauty. This transitional season is a great time to be outdoors, and provides a valuable wellness benefit—walking. Walking offers a significant return on investment, and doesn’t cost anything but a little time.

As we age we need more exercise. Physical activity helps to prevent bone loss, increase muscle strength, and reduce the risk of several other diseases associated with aging. Being physically active is a key to maintaining a higher quality of life and independence. Walking improves fitness, physical function, and prevents physical disability for aging adults. For older adults, moderate activity can come from longer sessions of walking or swimming, shorter sessions of vigorous walking or stair climbing.

It is recommended that adults participate in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Walking has the lowest impact on bones and joints, and often is an easy form of exercise to blend into your day at the office, factory or wherever you work, as well as a great family activity on the weekends.

Benefits of walking:

  • Reduced risk of coronary heart disease, and improved blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and blood lipid profile
    Women in a recent health study (72,488 female nurses) who walked at least three hours per week reduced their risk of heart attack and other coronary illnesses by 35% compared to those who did not walk.
  • Maintain body weight and lower risk of obesity
    Walking at a moderate pace for 30-60 minutes burns stored fat and can build muscle to speed up your metabolism.
  • Reduced risk of osteoporosis
    Walking is effective in decreasing the rate of bone loss in the legs.
  • Reduced risk of breast and colon cancer
    Women who walked briskly at least two hours weekly decreased their breast cancer risk by 18%. Routine walking can also help to prevent colon cancer and improve the quality of life of colon cancer survivors.
  • Reduced risk of non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type 2)
    A formal diabetes prevention program showed that walking 150 minutes per week and losing 7% of your body weight can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%.
  • Enhanced mental well-being
    Research has shown that depression is lowered 47% in those moderately physically active for 30 minutes, three to five times a week, after 12 weeks.

Walking is one of the least expensive and easiest ways to stay fit. It’s very versatile, and can be completed indoors or outdoors—alone or with others. You can walk before or after work, during lunch, in the evenings, on weekends or whenever it’s most convenient, and join in this healthy, relaxing activity.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Continuing to Beat the Wellness Drum – Why It Matters

As a small business leader, you constantly analyze and evaluate your benefits programs, taking into account growing healthcare expenditures and the personal health and wellness of your employees.

The benefits of progressive, proactive wellness programs are well established. To reduce costs, employees need to become engaged in both their healthcare spending and in reducing their health risks.

Achieving balance through wellness, education, and support

Many organizations are raising employee awareness of health costs and the importance of living healthy lifestyles, while continuing to offer quality healthcare coverage at affordable prices. A standard approach is to focus on wellness, education, and consumer support by weaving wellness into the fabric of your company’s culture.

While one obvious goal of any wellness program is to reduce costs, it is not the primary message. Wellness is about people and improving their quality of life. Successful programs place heavy emphasis on personal outcomes. Employees benefit from access to healthcare education and information on topics ranging from stress management and exercise to healthy cooking. They also benefit from smoking cessation courses and materials, and through an understanding of their own personal responsibility in ensuring their health and wellness.

Making connections between costs and choices

When you integrate wellness and intervention programs, you have the opportunity to educate employees about how the connections between their healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices relate to their premiums and other healthcare costs.

The impact of health data and supportive outreach to drive changes is working for employers across the country. There are a variety of interactive, online health and wellness programs that can help employers enhance the health and productivity of their employees and support a more complete system of care.

The first step, of course, is encouraging your team to complete an in-depth health assessment. This assessment yields revealing, yet actionable information for the individual, and can be used to help guide the employee to programs and actions that will address his or her health needs.

Quality educational courses and materials, sensible fitness activities, and effective communication are all core components of a successful wellness program. Employers must make the connections between medical costs, health risks, and personal responsibility. The more we understand that health risks, many of which are modifiable, drive health utilization and cost, the more effective we can be in helping our employees adjust their behaviors and attitudes toward wellness.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

B Smart and B Healthy — Know Your Vitamins

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps maintain the body’s nervous system, helps keep blood cells healthy, and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak.

What foods provide vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods. Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods including the following:

  • Beef liver and clams, which are the best sources of vitamin B12
  • Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, which also contain vitamin B12
  • Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products that are fortified with vitamin B12. To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels.

What kinds of vitamin B12 dietary supplements are available?

Vitamin B12 is found in almost all multivitamins. Dietary supplements that contain only vitamin B12, or vitamin B12 with nutrients such as folic acid and other B vitamins, are also available. Check the supplement facts label to determine the amount of vitamin B12 provided.

A prescription form of vitamin B12 can be administered as a shot. This is usually used to treat vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is also available as a prescription medication in nasal gel form.

Am I getting enough vitamin B12?

Most people in the United States get enough vitamin B12 from the foods they eat. But some people have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from food. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency affects between 1.5% and 15% of the public. Your doctor can test your vitamin B12 level to see if you have a deficiency.

Certain groups may not get enough vitamin B12 or have trouble absorbing it, such as:

  • Older adults, who do not have enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach to absorb the vitamin B12 naturally present in food. People over 50 should get most of their vitamin B12 from fortified foods or dietary supplements because, in most cases, their bodies can absorb vitamin B12 from these sources.
  • People with pernicious anemia whose bodies cannot absorb vitamin B12. Doctors usually treat pernicious anemia with vitamin B12 shots, although very high oral doses of vitamin B12 might also be effective.
  • People who have had gastrointestinal surgery, such as weight-loss surgery, or who have digestive disorders, such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. These conditions can decrease the amount of vitamin B12 that the body can absorb.
  • Some people who eat little or no animal foods such as vegetarians and vegans. Only animal foods have vitamin B12 naturally. When pregnant women and women who breastfeed their babies are strict vegetarians or vegans, their babies might also not get enough vitamin B12.

What happens if I don’t get enough vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 deficiency causes tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anemia. Nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue. Vitamin B12 deficiency can damage the nervous system even in people who don’t have anemia, so it is important to treat a deficiency as soon as possible.

In infants, signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency include failure to thrive, problems with movement, delays in reaching the typical developmental milestones, and megaloblastic anemia.

How much vitamin B12 do I need?

Vitamin B12 can interact or interfere with medicines that you take, and in some cases, medicines can lower vitamin B12 levels in the body. Talk with your physician or pharmacist for clarification. Also, tell your doctor, pharmacist, and other health care providers about any dietary supplements and medicines you take. They can tell you if those dietary supplements might interact or interfere with your prescription or over-the-counter medicines or if the medicines might interfere with how your body absorbs, uses, or breaks down nutrients.

The amount of vitamin B12 you need each day depends on your age. Average daily recommended amounts for different ages are listed below in micrograms (mcg):

Birth to 6 months 0.4 mcg
Infants 7–12 months 0.5 mcg
Children 1–3 years 0.9 mcg
Children 4–8 years 1.2 mcg
Children 9–13 years 1.8 mcg
Teens 14-18 years 2.4 mcg
Adults 2.4 mcg
Pregnant teens and women 2.6 mcg
Breastfeeding teens and women 2.8 mcg

 

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Taking Charge of Your Health Care

To make the most of your time with your personal physician it’s important to speak up and ask questions. When you play an active role in your health care, you can improve the quality of the care you and your family get.

Most people depend on different doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and insurance companies for their health care. It’s a team effort, and you are the most important member of the team. You can help take charge of your health care by practicing the following simple steps:

  • Keep track of important health information
  • See a doctor regularly for checkups
  • Be prepared for medical appointments
  • Ask your doctor or nurse questions
  • Maintain good personal records

Keep track and manage your medical history

Managing your health care is easier if you keep all your health information in one place. To start your own personal health record, write down:

  • Your name, birth date, and blood type (ask your doctor if you don’t know)
  • The name and phone number of a friend or relative to call if there’s an emergency
  • Dates and results of checkups and screening tests
  • List of shots (and the dates you got them)
  • Medicines you take, how much you take, and why you take them
  • Telephone numbers and addresses of places you go for health care, including your pharmacy
  • Any health conditions you have, including allergies

The health history of your family is also an important part of your personal health record.  You can use this handy online tool (https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/fhh-web/home.action) to keep track of conditions that run in your family.

It’s important to see a doctor regularly for checkups, even if you’re not sick. Your doctor or nurse can help you stay healthy. Adults typically need a checkup every one to five years, depending on age and overall health. Regular checkups can help the doctor find problems early, when they may be easier to treat.

So, remember to write down your questions ahead of time and take the list with you to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. Here’s a tool you can use to help you build your question list: (http://www.ahrq.gov/questionsaretheanswer/questionBuilder.aspx). When you do get to that appointment, remember to talk about any changes since your last visit, like:

  • New medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, herbs or home remedies, and vitamins
  • Recent illness or surgery
  • Health concerns or issues
  • Health information you’ve found on the Internet or heard from others

Then, follow up after your appointment, schedule follow-up appointments for tests or lab work, if you need to, and call if you have any questions or side effects from medicine. It’s up to you to make the most of your doctor visits, but remembering these tips will help you stay better involved in your health, and help your medical professionals help you!

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Eat Your Veggies – But Preparation Matters

We all grew up hearing about the health benefits of eating fresh fruit and vegetables. While we might prefer to indulge in cookies and ice cream, French fries and burgers – especially in the summer – eating a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables will keep you in better balance, nutritionally, and can help protect you from:

  • Heart disease
  • Bone loss
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Some cancers, such as colorectal cancer

To cook or not cook your veggies

Cooking is crucial to our diets. It helps us digest food without expending huge amounts of energy. It softens food that our small teeth, weak jaws and digestive systems aren’t equipped to handle. And while we might hear from raw food advocates that cooking kills vitamins and minerals in food, it turns out raw vegetables are not always healthier.

A study published in The British Journal of Nutrition last year found that a group of 198 subjects who followed a strict raw food diet had normal levels of vitamin A and relatively high levels of beta-carotene (an antioxidant found in dark green and yellow fruits and vegetables), but low levels of the antioxidant lycopene.

Lycopene is a red pigment found predominantly in tomatoes and other rosy fruits such as watermelon, pink guava, red bell pepper and papaya. Several studies conducted in recent years (at Harvard Medical School, among others) have linked high intake of lycopene with a lower risk of cancer and heart attacks, and research indicates it may be an even more potent antioxidant than vitamin C.

Cooked carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers and many other vegetables also supply more antioxidants, such as carotenoids and ferulic acid, to the body than they do when raw,  at least, that is, if they’re boiled or steamed. Boiling and steaming better preserves antioxidants, particularly carotenoid, in carrots, zucchini and broccoli, though boiling was deemed the best. Always avoid deep frying.

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that cooking carrots actually increases their level of the antioxidant beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which plays an important role in vision, reproduction, bone growth and regulating the immune system.

Visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ to find out how many servings of fruit and vegetables you need based on your age, weight, level of physical activity, and gender.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Wellness Works Better When Leaders Walk The Talk

There’s no better prescription for inspiring healthy change than leading by example. If leaders in small businesses truly want their employees to embrace wellness initiatives, the more they are involved leading that charge, the better the acceptance, participation, and results.

“Strategic business leaders at best-practice organizations are taking a strong leadership role in community health initiatives in tobacco control, preventive screenings and immunizations, obesity control, responsible alcohol use, and physical activity. In doing so, they act as catalysts within their community by influencing not only their employees and their families to make healthier choices, but their fellow citizens and neighbors as well,” said Jud Richland, president of Partnership for Prevention.

Partnership for Prevention’s Leading by Example program is designed to leverage the workplace to improve health by promoting greater business involvement in health promotion and disease prevention. Their publications address how nearly 20 small to medium-sized employers lowered barriers to creating effective worksite health programs through the active engagement of the CEO.

“Leading by Example: The Value of Worksite Health to Small- and Medium-Sized Employers” features nearly 20 businesses that are reaching out to improve the health and wellness of their companies. “Leading by Example: Creating Healthy Communities through Corporate Engagement” features 19 businesses that are reaching out to improve the health and wellness of their communities.

You can download PDF versions of the publications here:

 “Leading by Example: The Value of Worksite Health to Small- and Medium-Sized Employers” 

“Leading by Example: Creating Healthy Communities through Corporate Engagement” 

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!