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Eating for a Healthy Heart

Looking for ways to kick start your heart-healthy lifestyle? Start by looking at your diet. Poor food choices can have a negative effect on your heart, weight and overall health; but making small, sustainable changes to improve your diet can have a lasting impact. There is a lot of misinformation about what foods are or aren't heart-healthy, so it may surprise you to learn that you don't need exotic fruits, imported nuts, or even pricey supplements to take care of your ticker. By making heart smart choices at home, at the grocery and at your favorite restaurant, you can reduce your risk of heart disease. Dietary DOs and DON'Ts for a Healthy Heart DO focus on fruits and vegetables. Most American's don't come close to eating the recommended minimum of five servings per day, but vegetables and fruits of all kinds and colors should take center stage in a heart-healthy diet. They're rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that promote a healthy heart and body, plus they're filling and low in calories, which can promote weight management. Fresh, frozen, dried, canned (without sugar/syrups or added salt), raw, cooked—all fruits and vegetables are good for you. Here are more tips to fit them into your meals and snacks. DON'T overdo it on juice and processed "fruit" snacks. The fruit filling in a breakfast pastry is mostly sugar—not a real serving of fruit. And while small amounts of 100% fruit juice can fit into a healthy diet, they're also concentrated sources of sugar (naturally occurring) and calories compared to whole fruits, which also boast heart-healthy fiber while juice does not. Find out how juice can fit into a healthy diet. DO monitor your sodium intake. Sodium gets a bad rap—and deservedly so. Our bodies do need this mineral, but in much smaller quantities than we normally eat. To prevent high blood pressure and heart disease, a healthy sodium goal to strive for is no more than 1,500 milligrams per day. Keep in mind that sodium doesn't just come from the salt shaker; processed foods, frozen entrees, canned vegetables, common condiments (like ketchup), deli meats (such as salami) and cheeses (including cottage cheese) can be high in sodium, as can many restaurant dishes. Learn how sodium sneaks into your diet and ways to reduce your intake. DON'T forget about added sugar. Most people know that sugar isn't exactly a health food. It provides quick-digesting carbohydrates, but no real nutrition (think: vitamins and minerals). While many people associate sugar with the development of diabetes, few people realize that sugar plays just as much of a role in heart disease as dietary fat does. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that individuals who ate more sugar had lower levels of HDL "good" cholesterol and higher triglycerides—markers of increased heart disease risk. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars (about 100 calories) each day; that number becomes 9 teaspoons for men (150 calories). Just one 12-ounce can of cola has about 130 calories, or eight teaspoons of sugar. Learn more about where sugar lurks in your diet. DO cut back on fat. To reduce your risk of heart disease you need to choose the right types of fat, and make sure that you're not eating too much fat in general. Most adults eat too much fat, regardless of the source, so cutting back on dietary fat is a good first step to a heart healthy diet. That's why choosing low-fat products, baking or broiling instead of frying, and reducing or omitting the fats that recipes call for (think: oil, shortening, lard) are important first steps to get your fat intake in line. Avoid fats that elevate your cholesterol levels: trans fats (hydrogenated oils found in baked goods and many margarines) and saturated fats (usually found in high-fat meats and dairy products, including beef, lamb, pork, poultry, beef fat, cream, lard, butter, cheese and dairy products made with whole or 2% milk, as well as baked goods and fried foods that contain palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil). About 25-35% of your total calories for the day should come from fat sources. For someone eating 1,500 calories per day, that's about 41-58 grams of fat. SparkPeople's meal plans and nutrition ranges meet this guideline, so if you track your food and are within your daily fat goal, you are meeting this recommendation. DON'T fear all fats. Not all fats are bad for you. In fact, certain types of fat, such as monounsaturated fat and Omega-3s, actually promote heart health. Once you've gotten your fat intake in line, focus on making heart-smart fat choices to meet your daily recommendations. Fats found in nuts, olive, soybean and canola oils, fish and seafood. DO imbibe in moderation (if you drink). Research indicates that a moderate alcohol intake has been associated with a decreased risk for certain cardiovascular diseases, particularly coronary heart disease. A moderate alcohol intake is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. To find out if a moderate alcohol intake is appropriate for you, talk to your doctor about your consumption of alcohol, medical history, and any medications you use. Learn more about alcohol and your heart. DON'T start drinking alcohol if you aren't already a drinker. There are other, healthier ways to reduce your risk of heart disease rather than drinking alcohol, which also comes with its own set of risks and can lead to problems. If you don't drink now, don't start. Other healthy habits (like not smoking, eating right, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight) can also help you reduce your risk of heart disease. DO fill up on fiber. A high fiber diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Certain types of fiber may help lower LDL "bad" cholesterol. Adults should aim for 20-30 grams each day. To meet your daily quota, select a variety of unprocessed plant-based foods each day, including whole grains, (oats, whole-wheat bread/flour/cereal fruits and vegetables and beans. DON'T forget about cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance made in the liver and cells of animals. It is therefore found in animal products (meat, poultry, dairy and eggs), but not plant-sourced foods. A high intake of dietary cholesterol can contribute to heart disease. For the prevention of heart disease, limit your intake of dietary cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams each day. If you already have an elevated LDL cholesterol level or you are taking a cholesterol medication, this goal is even lower: 200 milligrams daily. While it may seem like there are a lot of "rules" to follow to protect your heart, it all boils down to making smart choices on a consistent basis. Focus on the foods that you know are good for you—whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean protein choices, and healthy fats—and limit or avoid the types of foods that don't do anything for your health (think empty calories, fried foods, sugar and sweets, and high-fat meats and dairy products). When you focus on the good stuff and make healthful choices most of the time, you'll be doing your body—and your heart—well. Sources American Heart Association. "Nutrition Center: Healthy Diet Goals," accessed March 2011. www.heart.org. American Heart Association. "Saturated Fats," accessed March 2011. www.heart.org. HelpGuide.org "Easy Tips for Planning a Healthy Diet and Sticking To It," accessed March 2011. www.helpguide.org. Mayo Clinic. "Healthy Diet: End the Guesswork with These Nutrition Guidelines," accessed March 2011. www.mayoclinic.com. United Press International. "Eating Fiber May Reduce Heart Risk," accessed March 2011. www.upi.com. Welsh, Jean A, Andrea Sharma, Jerome L. Abramson, Viola Vaccarino, Cathleen Gillespie and Miriam B. Vos. "Caloric Sweetener Consumption and Dyslipidemia Among US Adults," Journal of the American Medical Association. Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=53

People and Paws charity helps owners feed their pets

Animal lover Sandy Allen of learned about People and Paws — a Dayton, Ohio, nonprofit that distributes pet food that operates on donations from various businesses and individuals— more than a year ago. She visited the distribution center, founded and run by Joyce Ahmad, and has been a volunteer ever since.

"I liked what Joyce was doing, and I get direct contact with pet owners we're serving, which is very rewarding," said Allen, who performs many needed tasks.

"People and Paws doesn't judge people. Some may not have made the best decisions on how to spend their money, but that doesn't matter. The pet food we give out isn't meant to be the pets' only source of food, but as a supplement to help owners," Allen said.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Like Allen, Ahmad and most of her 10 volunteers are seniors, although Ahmad's most loyal volunteer is her 11-year-old granddaughter, Natalya Sutaro, who's been helping since she was 4 years old. "She can run it as well as I can. She's taught me some things, and the other volunteers love her."

Youth from the juvenile courts bag food twice a month for community service. "Their probation officer has been with us since we started six years ago," said Ahmad, who said she started the service after watching a family on television dropping off two Labrador retrievers at a shelter because the couple couldn't afford their food.

"Their kids were sobbing, and I started sobbing," she recalls. "Then my husband told me to stop crying and do something." Since making that suggestion, her husband, Khurshid, has become chief finance operator of the operation, although Joyce says "we call him the FOC for 'free of charge.'"

Although the Ahmads live in Beavercreek, "I started in East Dayton because I work with local pastors and Christ Lutheran Church let us use a small area of the church. Later, Sandy's Towing on Valley Street saw us on the news, and let us use a larger space in their garage."

Last year, Ahmad bought a 188 square-foot garage. "We gutted it and converted it to our needs. It's just wonderful," she said.

People and Paws, a nonprofit that operates on donations from various businesses and individuals, also pays half the cost for spaying or neutering clients' pets. Although dog food donors are generous, "We always need dry cat food — we spend about $300 each month on that — gallon-size Ziploc bags, and we're in dire need of a van to pick up donations.

"In addition to donations, Centerville, Ohio, veterinarian Dr. Kathleen Grant does a Christmas food drive for us that's very helpful," Ahmad said.

"We've really grown, with 500 families currently registered to receive pet food; we distribute dog, cat and sometimes rabbit food to about 200 families each month," Ahmad said.

When they pick up their pet food, clients drop off two nonperishable food items that are collected by a local church for its human food pantry.

Ahmad said, "We don't take pets. Our goal is to keep them in loving homes with their families."

Anyone wishing to donate or assist should contact Joyce Ahmad at 937-912-5965 or email maryjahmad@yahoo.com.

Top 5 Secure Home Automation Systems for Different Lifestyles

As more home automation systems hit the market, customers continue to adopt the new technologies....

Hate Trump or Clinton? This Website Uses That Anger to Help You Lose Weight

Setting goals is one thing, but actually sticking to them is, well... yeah. The aptly named website Trump Your Goals is here to help, whether you want to lose weight or run a 5K—albeit in a pretty messed up way. Here's how it works: Enter your goal, set the deadline, choose the amount of money you'll pony up if you fall short, and answer the question: Who do you hate more, Trump or Clinton? If you don't complete it, the site donates the cash to your least favorite presidential candidate. Photo: Trump Your Goals This all sounds pretty backward, and to be fair, there's not much accountability here. You just have to say you completed your goal—and we know how easy that is. Science does back up the so-called anti-charity form of motivation. Studies have shown people are more driven by the possibility of a punishment than a reward. There's also research that supports attaching money to your goals and making them public. But there are plenty of ways to stick to your goals that don't involve inadvertently supporting a cause you're fundamentally against. Apps such as Commit and Strides can keep you on track, or if you're really the type that needs to put your money where you mouth is, tell a friend you'll buy them a drink if you fall short. Because life does get in the way, and it's not worth compromising your values.

Hate Trump or Clinton? This Website Uses That Fury to Help You Lose Weight

Setting goals is one thing, but actually sticking to them is, well... yeah. The aptly named website Trump Your Goals is here to help, whether you want to lose weight or run a 5K—albeit in a pretty messed up way. Here's how it works: Enter your goal, set the deadline, choose the amount of money you'll pony up if you fall short, and answer the question: Who do you hate more, Trump or Clinton? If you don't complete it, the site donates the cash to your least favorite presidential candidate. Photo: Trump Your Goals This all sounds pretty backward, and to be fair, there's not much accountability here. You just have to say you completed your goal—and we know how easy that is. Science does back up the so-called anti-charity form of motivation. Studies have shown people are more driven by the possibility of a punishment than a reward. There's also research that supports attaching money to your goals and making them public. But there are plenty of ways to stick to your goals that don't involve inadvertently supporting a cause you're fundamentally against. Apps such as Commit and Strides can keep you on track, or if you're really the type that needs to put your money where you mouth is, tell a friend you'll buy them a drink if you fall short. Because life does get in the way, and it's not worth compromising your values.

A Bodyweight Workout That Gets Back to Basics

Sometimes you need to feel the burn to feel like you got a good workout, right? While it's good to incorporate high intensity exercise into your routine, it's also important to perfect your form. This beginner workout will help you do just that and build strength at the same time. This 30-minute series is designed to help you build a strong training foundation with the proper techniques. You'll perform the moves slowly and deliberately to make sure you're engaging the right muscles. Each exercise is a functional movement (i.e., moves you actually use every day, like lifting grocery bags, walking up stairs, or squatting to sit in a chair). Whether you're just getting started, coming back from an injury, or want to refocus on your form, this routine has something for everyone. Grab an exercise mat (a set of 5 to 10 pound dumbbells is optional), then get back to the basics below. To recap: You will need an exercise mat. One set of 5 to 10 pound dumbbells is optional. Each move is performed for about 30 seconds. You will repeat the workout a total of three times. -Warm-Up- Arm Circle Side Plank (both sides) Single Leg Bridge Spiderman Stretch -Workout- Single Leg Arm Raise Single Leg Squat Single Leg Row Single Leg Lunge With Row and Kickback Front Lunge With Rotation and Press Squat Jump -Repeat- Looking for more short and effective at-home workouts? Grokker has thousands of routines, so you’ll never get bored. Bonus: For a limited time, Greatist readers get 40 percent off Grokker Premium (just $9 per month) and their first 14 days free. Sign up now!

The Secret to Hosting a Dinner Party That Won’t Turn You Into a Stress Case

Three different kitchen timers go off at the exact moment you drop a carton of eggs; the avocados you bought days ago still aren’t ripe; and the oven was a little too hot, leaving your roasted chicken bone-dry. Is it a nightmare? No, we're just thinking of all the things that could go wrong right before a dinner party. Add 10 guests and the pressure of ~entertaining~ to that equation? Way too much for a Saturday night. The secret to avoiding all the mess and frustration of a traditional dinner party: Don't make dinner. Counterintuitive? Maybe. But once you abandon the stressful task of actually cooking a full meal for a group, you’ll feel a weight lift from your shoulders. You’ll remember to buy ice and actually have time to shower before everyone arrives. Keep it up and you’ll want to host every week. Still not convinced? We also checked in with a few of our favorite bloggers (they’re no strangers to making tons of food!) to get their biggest tips for anxiety-free entertaining. How to Host a Dinner-Free Dinner Party Photo: Damn Delicious 1. Give people something the moment they walk in. Greet guests with a drink and have snacks ready on the table. While no one should feel like they have to ask for something to eat at any point in the evening, just because you’re hosting doesn’t make you a waiter. Have a bar set up in the kitchen or living room stocked with options for those who drink and those who don’t, and make it known that everyone can serve themselves. If a particular drink runs out, that’s just a sign of a fun party—no need to run to the store for another six-pack of the Lagunitas just because everyone really liked it. You can always whip out your stockpile of not-so-great wine too. And don't forget to refill the chip bowl once—and only if it’s nearly empty. 2. Let the setting do the work. “Lit candles and a really good playlist set the mood,” says Jamie Webber, our own senior food editor, suggesting a Top-40 station for a casual party or jazz for a moodier setting. Webber also stresses the importance of a tidy space: “People tend to judge you if you have a dirty bathroom.” Instead of spending 40 minutes making a baked Brie, use that time to refill the hand soap, straighten out the shower curtain, and move your roommate’s towel to his or her bedroom. Your guests may not notice outright, but your pad will feel instantly more polished (with little effort). Photo: The First Mess 3. Keep the main event minimal. Just because you’ve invited people over doesn’t mean you also have to cook a four-course meal. When Laura Wright of The First Mess has friends over, she keeps it simple by making a “deluxe hummus table.” She whips up a big batch of hummus (store-bought works too!), divides it into three bowls, and covers each with unique toppings. "From there, I load up the table with crackers, pita chips, vegetable chips, pickled vegetables, extra olives, and chopped fresh vegetables. This strategy usually takes care of multiple dietary needs, and keeps everyone busy and milling about." Use this model for the base of any party—maybe it's a taco bar instead of hummus—because sticking with a theme always helps to keep the focus simple. Ali Maffucci, the queen of the zoodle and founder of Inspiralized, relies on a big salad to feed everyone. “I like tossing zucchini noodles together with pesto and then adding chopped tomatoes and chickpeas,” Maffucci says. “I'll place the salad in a bowl with some serving tongs and set it out for [self-serve].” Maffucci suggests supplementing with small bites, like cheese and crackers, hummus and crudités, and olives. The most important thing to remember? “No need to go overboard, the wine and laughter will do the rest!” Photo: Inspiralized 4. If you still want to cook, stay organized. Shelly Westerhausen of Vegetarian ‘Ventures swears by action lists, making sure every moment of her prep time is well-spent. “I hosted a big grill-out the other weekend and had a list of action items split up,” Westerhausen says. She makes 'do on Friday night', 'do on Saturday morning,' and 'do right before the event' lists, including steps for recipes, setting up the backyard, and errands she needs to run. Westerhausen knows this extra planning step pays off in the long run: “[They] help me feel less stressed about what I still need to do and guarantee nothing is missed.” If three to-do lists is too much for you, just stick with one. 5. Go halfsies with your friends. “Get the guests involved,” says Giselle Rochford of Diary of an ExSloth. “With all the food allergies, sensitivities, and restrictions today, [it’s] impossible to cater to the needs of all your guests without going all out.” Rochford suggests throwing a potluck-style party, in which every guest cooks one dish. “It gives the party a more relaxed and intimate vibe, which is something I love,” Rochford adds. “Plus the different dishes [are] great conversation starters if all the guests don't know one another.” You'll also have more time to focus on stocking the bar. Photo: The First Mess 6. Most importantly, don’t worry. Whether you're cooking or opening a container of premade hummus, "dinner parties are meant to be fun and social,” says Chungah Rhee of Damn Delicious. “Instead of trying to cook everything down to the last second, try make-ahead recipes; all you have to do is reheat.” Rhee also suggests using a slow cooker for "set-and-forget" meals that also keep food warm throughout the length of the party. Pulled pork sliders, anyone? 7. Don’t always host in your home. Who says you have to set up your house for company because you want to host? For some, particularly those living in tiny apartments, even finding more than three chairs may prove difficult. There’s a solution here too: Host a picnic in a local park instead of in your home. Tell everyone to bring a drink or a side, make a few long sandwiches on baguettes, slice, and bring speakers (and if it’s not summer, a blanket or two.) The Takeaway Even if the guacamole turns dirt-brown halfway through the night or someone drops a full beer, shattering glass all over your kitchen floor (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything… ), if you’re hanging with good friends, the evening will still be a success. Just maybe check that you have a frozen pizza in the freezer and a vacuum on hand for cleanup.

How to Make the Greatist Ice Cream Sundae of All Time

Few desserts cover as much ground as the ice cream sundae. A truly perfect one is a sweet, salty, chocolaty, crunchy, creamy, fruity (did we miss anything?) blend of goodness. While we can take down a double scoop of mint chocolate chip any day, sometimes we’re in the mood for something a little less rich. Enter the ultimate better-for-you ice cream sundae. With a banana ice cream base, coconut oil hot fudge, and Greek yogurt whipped cream (plus a cherry on top, duh!), this cooling treat is super satisfying, but won’t leave you moaning on the couch an hour later. Grab a few friends and a bunch of spoons to demolish the sundae together… but only if you’re feeling generous. How to Make the Greatist Ice Cream Sundae You'll need... Step 1: Melt 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, then 2 teaspoons maple syrup and pinch of salt. Set aside. Scoop banana ice cream (here's how to make it) into your sundae vessel of choice: bowl, mug, bathtub, etc. Step 2: Drizzle the coconut oil hot fudge over the ice cream. Step 3: Dollop a generous mound of yogurt whipped cream. (That'd be 2 tablespoons plain Green yogurt, whisked for about 30 seconds.) Step 4: Sprinkle with chopped nuts. Step 5: Add a shower of cocoa nibs, then top with a cherry (or five!). Step 6: Grab some friends and a bunch of spoons; destroy the sundae. The Greatist Ice Cream Sundae Recipe by: Rebecca Firkser Serves: 3-5 2 tablespoons coconut oil 3 tablespoons cocoa powder 2 teaspoons room temperature maple syrup Pinch Kosher salt 1 batch banana ice cream 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, whisked for about 30 seconds Cocoa nibs Chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut/seed) 1 cherry 1. Melt coconut oil in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Whisk in cocoa powder, then maple syrup and salt. Set aside. Scoop ice cream into your sundae vessel of choice (bowl, mug, bathtub, etc.). 2. Drizzle the coconut oil hot fudge over the ice cream. 3. Dollop a generous mound of yogurt whipped cream. 4. Sprinkle with chopped nuts. 5. Add a shower of cocoa nibs, then top with a cherry (or five!). 6. Grab some friends and a bunch of spoons; destroy the sundae.

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