I love milk and I am certain I know why. Yes, it tastes good and it has many health benefits for myself and my family, but I’m convinced that my love of milk comes from spending many summers in México as a child and many winters in Chicago.
I lived in México until I was 5 years old and then went back to visit almost every summer until I was an adult. One of the most vivid memoires from my time trips was watching my aunt milk the family cows. She would wash her hands, grab her red bucket from the kitchen counter and always ask me if I wanted to go with her. I really enjoyed going with her to milk the cows. I liked this quite time with her and I felt great to be picked for such an important chore in the house. Milking the cows seemed to take forever and I swear my aunt would sweat a little bit - it was hard work after all! When we were done, we would head back to her kitchen. The moment the milk made its way into the house we had an instant party. Family members seemed to just pop into the kitchen for a glass! My tia would get to work right away – the milk usually ended up in a rice pudding that afternoon or in a delicious gelatina, yum! In the evenings the adults poured it liberally into their café con leche, of course.
Back in Chicago, my early memories of milk take place on cold Chicago evenings. I grew up with 4 kids in a small Southside apartment and I’m certain that we contributed significantly to the local economy with the amount of milk that our family consumed. I can recall so many evenings when the snow was on the ground and the temperature outside was bone chilling. Then my mamí would announce “aye, la leche!” when we were almost or completely out of milk and that was REALLY bad in our home. My brother always had cereal before going bed and my father needed it for his oatmeal first thing in the morning. My mamí would get dressed and walk to the local market in that bitter cold, just for milk. Many times I went with her. When I run out to the grocery store at 10:30 p.m. so that my kids won’t wake up to a milkless house I always think of my mamí and her late night milk runs, but I live in sunny southern California, thank goodness!
In college I had a small fridge in my dorm room – always with a small milk container, of course! Fast forward many years to my life now. I am mother to 4 young kids. In our home, milk is a staple part of our diet. For the most part, my kids only drink milk and water.
Given my appreciation for milk, I am very proud to announce my role as Positivity Ambassador. I have teamed up with the California Milk Processors Board and some amazing Latina Mom Bloggers to share with you the many benefits of making milk a part of a healthy lifestyle. Between now and Christmas I’ll be doing a series of posts on milk’s benefits, easy tips on incorporating milk into our busy lives and my favorite milk based recipes. I will be sharing this information with you with help of the campaign’s fun (and fictional) mascot, The Master of the Glass Half Full, aka “El Maestro Del Vaso Medio Lleno.” Check out this video of The Master at work - he certainly has a passion for milk!
He is basically the world’s most passionate advocate for milk, so I like him already, but it’s his positive attitude and outlook on life that I truly love. No matter how much he drinks or pours, the Master’s glass of milk is always half full – always! What a great philosophy to live by, to see the positive in all things (I could use help in this area!).
Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored campaign with the California Milk Processor’s Board and Latina Mom Bloggers.
Health Tip of the Week
You have heard over and over that keeping your body healthy is beneficial to just about everything related to your physical being. Well, here is another reason to keep your body healthy. It keeps your mind sharp too!
As early as your 20s, you can begin to lose brain cells a few at a time. Your body also starts to make fewer of the chemicals your brain cells need to work. As you age, these small changes can begin to have significant affects on your memory by changing the way the brain stores information and by making it harder to remember stored information. While you cannot stop the aging process, you can help your brain by exercising it and eating healthy.
To exercise your brain, you will have to actively learn, try and/or experience new things. When you learn something new, whether it is a piece of information, an activity, etc., your brain literally grows. It forms new synaptic connections between your neurons. These connections are the “key” to intelligence, memory and information processing. The more connections you have, the better!!
What are some foods that can help keep your mind healthy? Start with whole foods. That means anything not processed. It comes off a tree or in the ground. Fruits and veggies are a great start! The best brain foods are complex carbohydrates. Because the molecules in complex carbohydrates are long, it takes longer for the intestines to break them down into the simple sugars the body can use. Because of this, they provide a source of steady energy rather than a surge followed by a plunge.* Below is a list of “good” brain food and “bad” brain foods:
Good Brain Foods
Avocados, Bananas, Lean Beef, Brewer's yeast , Broccoli , Brown rice , Brussels sprouts, Cantaloupe, Cheese, Chicken, Collard greens, Eggs, Flaxseed oil, Legumes, Milk, Oatmeal, Oranges, Peanut butter, Peas, Potatoes, Romaine lettuce, Salmon, Soybeans, Spinach, Tuna, Turkey, Wheat germ, and Yogurt
Bad Brain Foods
Alcohol, Artificial food colorings, Artificial sweeteners, Colas, Corn syrup, Frostings, High-sugar "drinks,” Hydrogenated fats, Junk sugars, Nicotine, Overeating, White bread
Check out this interesting article on yahoo health. It covers more of the best and worst brain foods. It is fascinating how food can affect your brain!
What happens if you don’t keep your mind healthy? While this certainly not the inevitable, it is a serious possibility that many people face today. What is it? Alzheimer’s disease! Alzheimer's is a progressive form of presenile dementia that is similar to senile dementia except that it usually starts in the 40s or 50s; first symptoms are impaired memory which is followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn).
My Great-Grandmommy had Alzheimer's disease. Growing up, I saw her get worse and worse until she eventually lost all ability to remember anyone/anything around her. On the other hand, my Grandmommy, her daughter, is still ticking away sharp as a tack at 72!! The difference? While it is not scenically proven (in my family, anyway), my Grandmommy is extremely active, walking and working out at the senior center 3-5 days a week. She eats a balanced/mostly whole foods diet, and she constantly does things like crosswords, sodoku, reads, goes to museums, etc.
While I am no scientist, I am convinced that keeping your mind sharp is as simple as moving and learning. One may not completely eliminate the possibility of getting Alzheimer’s, but it won’t hurt to try! Now go out and learn something!!
The key is to learn new things, not just revisit old ones.
* Saltman, Paul, Joeal Gurin, and Ira Mothner. The University of California San Diego Nutrition Book. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.
Tip of the Week
While excessive sun exposure can be harmful to our skin, a few minutes per day, may be helpful to our body in the production of this precious vitamin.
Let’s then work on our posture, flexibility, body alignment, and peace of mind by starting every day with a few yoga sun salutations. Open up your bedroom door and step outside in your backyard, go to a nearby park or step onto the soothing sand of your favorite beach and open up your mind and body to the benefits of the sun.
Basic Sun Salutation
Practice each individual pose and then perform them in a smooth flow in the basic sun salutation. Begin with 3–5 repetitions of the sun salutation and work up to a 20- to 30-minute session. You can also use this exercise as a functional mind-body warm-up for other fitness activities. At the beginning of a yoga practice, three repetitions of the basic sun salutation will prepare your body for more intense poses in your favorite yoga style.
Equipment needed: yoga mat or any anti-slip soft surface to prevent pain and slight bruising of knees, hips and feet.
- Relax shoulders down.
- Arms resting alongside your body.
- Lift breastbone.
- Align hip bones over ankles.
- Lift arches, keeping equal weight distribution through whole foot.
- Look upward and lift breastbone.
- Inhale and keep head in alignment with your spine as it extends.
- Draw shoulders down as arms lift out to sides and overhead.
- Keep chest lifted, pelvis neutral and tailbone down.
- Maintain equal weight distribution on both feet.
- Exhaling, hinge from your hips keeping your back neutral.
- Keep tailbone lifted.
- Reach down with your hands, releasing into flexion during the last third of the movement, and try to place your hands on the floor.
- Relax your head down.
- Lift kneecaps.
Standing Half Forward Bend
- Inhale and extend your spine, lifting breastbone and drawing shoulder blades down.
- Keep tailbone lifted.
- Distribute your weight evenly over your feet, with knees straight and hands on the floor.
- Lift kneecaps.
- Align ears with shoulders.
- Exhale and step back into lower push-up position, hands under your shoulders, front of shoulders open and square.
- Contract your abdominals to support your spine.
- Distribute weight through whole hand, not just wrist.
- Draw shoulder blades down.
- Keep elbows close to rib cage.
- Maintain neutral alignment of your head, neck and spine.
- Press heels away.
Upward Facing Dog
- Look upward. Inhale, flatten top of feet and lift torso upward and back, rolling your shoulders.
- Keep hips on your mat, legs stretched away from your torso.
- Keep hands aligned with shoulders.
- Rotate shoulders out, with no compression.
- Point toes.
Downward Facing Dog
- Exhale and reach upward with tailbone
- Lower torso and tuck toes under.
- Keep tailbone lifted
- Position head between arms with neck relaxed.
- Put weight on base of fingers and spread weight across your entire hand, not just your wrist.
- Press ribs toward thighs, and lift kneecaps.
- Bend knees, if necessary to maintain neutral spinal alignment, and press heels toward floor.
Complete Sun Salutation Cycle
Enjoy your mind, body and…vitamin D.
According to Ayleen Marganian, MS, RD, CN, CLE,
“Vitamin D may be a key to healthier, more active aging. That’s what current studies are trying to determine. Vitamin D plays a role in musculoskeletal, immune, neurological, and cardiovascular health. One recent study in elderly subjects showed an association between higher circulating vitamin D levels and greater long-term health and physical function. Research also suggests that adequate vitamin D nutrition may help protect against osteoporosis, high blood pressure, certain autoimmune diseases, and other serious conditions. Nearly 3 out of 4 adults and teens may be deficient in the “sunshine” vitamin. Deficiency risk increases with age, skin pigment, and limited sunlight exposure, and is also associated with diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease or other gastrointestinal disorders—such as fat malabsorption. A good source of vitamin D may be hard to find. Our bodies manufacture vitamin D3 when skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet-B rays—which can be blocked by both windows and sunscreen, and vitamin D is found naturally only in a few foods (e.g., fish, eggs).”