New Year New You: Consider your health triangle

Originally posted in The Jamestown Sun.
By Dr. Dean Cramer, South Central Human Service Center

In thinking about wellness, and New Year’s resolutions related to improving health, I often encourage people to consider the concept of the “Health Triangle.” True to its name the health triangle proposes that there are three core components to healthy living including physical, emotional and social health.

So often our New Year’s resolutions narrow in on one side of this triangle and perhaps even a single aspect of that side. For example, most of you reading this article have likely had a New Year’s resolution at some point related to weight loss. Physical health, however, is a much broader concept than your weight and should include an emphasis on nutrition, exercise habits, sleep, and use of alcohol and/or drugs, etc.

It is also important to consider the other two sides of our triangle. Emotionally healthy and socially supported individuals are more likely to be successful in any change they make than are those who feel isolated or unhappy.

New Year New You taps into the idea of having a support network as you seek to make changes. Healthy home environment, loving families and close friends are all critically important parts of our overall well-being. Consider the people around you and whether they are supportive people who build you up or are negative/critical people who lead you to doubting yourself.

As much as possible, consider increasing your involvement with those who will support you. Likewise, set limits and if necessary consider removing or reducing the influence of the negative people in your life. It is remarkable how much our mood, feelings of self-worth and view of the world are impacted by those around us.

The final side of this triangle relates to emotional health, which is an area that people often fail to consider when making New Year’s resolutions. Emotional health includes the way you feel about yourself, how you deal with emotions and how you manage stressors. In my work as a psychologist, I encounter people who often hold a very negative self-perception. People will berate or be continually critical of themselves in ways they would never consider talking about another person. I would encourage everyone reading this article to take a day and “watch” your thoughts carefully while considering “what sort of messages am I sending myself” and depending upon what you discover consider practicing sending more positive messages. This rather simple change can lead to a marked difference in mood and attitude.

Other activities that can positively impact emotional health include taking time for your hobbies, reaching out to friends, managing stress, stepping away from the television or computer monitor and limiting worry. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or some other mental health concern, please reach out for help to your physician or a counselor. The research is conclusive that therapy and/or medication management are extremely effective in treating these disorders.

The biggest barrier for so many people is taking the risk to share their struggle and ask for help. Change happens every day, and often it comes from a person simply deciding “I’m worth it.” If you are so inspired and are looking at making changes with regard to your health please consider the New Year New You program’s global vision of wellness.

New Year, New You: High-fiber choices improve meals

Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body is not able to digest or absorb. Following a high-fiber diet has many health benefits that may include:

  • Softening and normalizing bowel movements by increasing stool weight and size.
  • Helping to maintain bowel health by preventing pockets from forming in the colon (diverticular disease).
  • Aiding in weight loss. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you are no longer hungry; therefore you are less likely to overeat.
  • Helping to control blood pressure and lower cholesterol.

Current fiber recommendations for adults are as follows:

  • Men age 18-50 should get 38 grams of fiber daily.
  • Men age 51 and above should get 30 grams of fiber daily.
  • Women age 18-50 should get 25 grams of fiber daily.
  • Women age 51 and above should get 21 grams of fiber daily

Fiber is commonly classified into two categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber has the ability to dissolve in water to form a gel-like material. Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that does not dissolve in water.

Foods high in fiber include: fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds. Foods labeled “high in fiber” must contain at least five grams of fiber per serving. Cooked vegetables change in texture, but do not lose their fiber content. Eating a diet high in fiber can help with the sense of fullness for a longer period of time, potentially leading to a decreased overall intake of total calories throughout the day.

Increase your fiber intake with these tips:

  • Add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your food.
  • Eat whole grain breads and cereals. Look for choices with 100% whole wheat, rye, oats or bran as the first or second ingredient.
  • Try brown rice, wild rice, barley and whole wheat pasta instead of the white alternatives.
  • When baking, replace half of the white flour with whole wheat flour.
  • Add fresh or frozen vegetables, beans, peas and lentils to soups, sauces, casseroles or salads.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables with peels and skins on since a majority of the fiber is located in the skin.
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables instead of juices.
  • Snack on dried fruit, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn or whole grain crackers.

Be sure to gradually add high-fiber foods to your diet over a period of a few weeks.

Adding too much fiber too quickly may lead to intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping.

Drink plenty of fluids. Set a goal of at least eight cups per day. You may need even more with higher amounts of fiber. Fluid helps your body process fiber without discomfort.

Make the most of every meal by adding more high-fiber foods. Your health, waistline and digestive tract will be thankful you did!

Fats and oils: The bad and the better

By: Joan Enderle, America Heart Association

All fats are not bad. In fact, dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones, too. Your body definitely needs fat – but not as much fat as most people eat.

There are four major dietary gats in the foods we eat: saturated fats, trans fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. The four types have different chemical structures and physical properties. The bad fats, saturated and trans fats, tend to be more solid at room temperature (like a stick of butter), while the better fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fasts tend to be more liquid (like liquid vegetable oil).

All fats are energy-dense so consuming high levels of fat – regardless of the type – can lead to taking in too many calories. Consuming high levels of saturated or trans fats can also lead to heart disease and stroke. Health experts generally recommend replacing saturated fats and trans fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats – while still limiting the total amount of fat you consume.

Eating foods with a moderate amount of fat is definitely part of a healthy diet. Just remember to balance the amount of calories you eat with the amount of calories you burn. Aim to eat more vegetables, fruits whole-grain/high-fiber foods, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry, and fish (at least twice a week). Doing so means that your diet will be low in both saturated fats and trans fats.

Many people wonder how many calories they should consume each day or how many grams of fat is healthy. The American Heart Association recommends that about 25-35 percent of your daily calories come from fats. Less than 7 percent of calories from saturated fat and less than 1 percent from trans-fat is recommended. Most of the fats you eat should be monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fats.

Visit the American Heart Association’s “My Fats Translator” at to get your personalized daily consumption limits for total fat, saturated fat and trans-fat. Just input your age, gender, height, weight and physical activity level.

Here’s a list of cooking oils that contain the best ratio of the “better-for-you” fats.
Canola oil was first introduced in the 1970s for home cooking and is made from seeds of the canola plant. It’s a great oil to have in your pantry because it is very versatile. Works well for sautéing, baking, frying, marinating and salad dressings.

Olive oil is a heart healthy staple of the Mediterranean diet and is made from ripe olives. “Extra virgin” is made from the first pressing of olives. “Light” olive oil is lighter in flavor and color but has the same amount of calories as extra-virgin. With a distinct flavor best uses include: grilling, sautéing, roasting, spreads for bread, base for Italian, Greek and Spanish dishes.

Peanut oil is made from shelled peanuts and is popular in Asian dishes as well as Southern cooking. With a high smoke point, peanut oil is used commonly for stir-frying, roasting, deep-frying or baking.

Sesame oil is made from sesame seeds and is a staple in Chinese, Korean and Indian cooking. With a nutty flavor, the light is used for stir-frying and the dark for dressings/sauces.

Vegetable oil is usually made from a combination of corn, soybeans and/or sunflower seeds and is another great oil to have on hand because it can be used for many different cooking techniques, including sautéing, baking, frying, marinating and salad dressings.

This article is brought to you by the American Heart Association’s Simple Cooking with Heart Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit

Enderle is the communications and Go Red director in North Dakota for the American Heart Association.

New Year New You: Control portions with MyPlate

Eating proper portions and being mindful about the amount of calories consumed each day can help aid in weight maintenance and weight loss. A study published in the American journal of Preventative medicine has shown those who keep a food journal lose about two times more eight than those who do not. Benefits of keeping a food journal include: acknowledging how much you truly eat; encouraging mindful eating; helping to ensure you are consuming a balanced diet; keeping track of extra calories; and increasing self-control.

Tips to shave calories while staying on track with your food journal:

  • Downsize your dishes. Use smaller plates and bowls to help you eat less. Our brains think we are getting more when the same amount of food is placed in a small dish.
  • Savor your meals. Eating slowly helps you consume only what your body needs to feel satisfied.
  • Don’t eat out of a bag or box. Pour one serving into a small bowl to better track how much you are eating.
  • Choose your glass wisely. When glasses are short and wide, we tend to fill them with more fluid and to drink more. Use a slender glass for any beverage except water.
  • Rethink your drinks. High-calorie beverages like soda, juice, energy drinks, specialty coffees and alcohol add calories.
  • Keep track as you go. It’s a lot harder to remember the whole day versus one meal at a time.
  • Practice proper portion size. Measure out your food when eating at home.
  • Keep in mind what one serving looks like. Some examples are: cooked pasta or beans = computer mouse; bread = compact disc; fresh fruit or raw vegetables, yogurt, or dry cereal = baseball; meat or French fries = deck of cards; cheese = four dice; peanut butter = ½ ping pong ball; grilled or baked fish = checkbook.

Follow the MyPlate method when planning healthful meals. MyPlate is based on the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010,” which was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

At each meal you should try to fill half your plate with a colorful array of fruits and vegetables. Choose lean proteins such as: chicken, lean beef, pork, beans, lentils or peas and limit those to one fourth of your plate. Fill the remaining quarter of your plate with a grain source. Aim to make half of your grains whole with whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, oatmeal or brown rice. Additionally, choose one serving of low fat dairy to have with your meal. of low fat dairy include: low fat or fat free milk, reduced fat cheese and yogurt.

Fats, sweets and desserts should be eaten sparingly.

Stay Hydrated, Stay Healthy

New Year New You 2013
Stay Hydrated, Stay healthy
By Joan Enderle, American Heart Association

The human body is made up of about 10 to 12 gallons, so replenishing your body’s water supply is crucial for proper function and health.

Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles remove waste so that they can work efficiently. If you are well hydrated, your heart does not have to work as hard and helps your body regulate temperature. Adequate hydration can help you feel more energetic and help your skin look better.

Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening illnesses such as heat stroke.

Water is best
For most people, water is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated. There are no calories in water. Additional sources of water also include foods, such as fruits and vegetables which contain a high percentage of water.

Sports drinks with electrolytes may be useful for people doing high intensity, vigorous exercise in very hot weather, though they tend to be high in calories. It may be healthier to drink water while you are exercising, and then when you are done, eat a healthy snack like orange slices, a banana or a small handful of unsalted nuts.

Other beverages such as sugary drinks, soda, coffee drinks and juices contain water but also may have a large number of calories, contributing to weight gain.

Young woman drinking water at workout, outdoorsHow much water do you need?
The amount of water a person needs depends on a number of factors: climatic conditions, clothing worn and exercise intensity and duration. A person who perspires heavily will need to drink more than someone who doesn’t. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may also mean you need to drink more to avoid over-taxing the heart or other organs. Some medications can act as diuretics, causing the body to lose more fluid.
Thirst isn’t the best indicator of hydration status. If you get thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. The easiest thing to do is pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale and clear means you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark, drink more fluids.

A safe bet is to drink at least eight cups of water each day to make sure you are properly hydrated. The Dietary Reference Intakes from the Institute of Medicine recommends a total daily beverage intake of 13 cups for men and 9 cups for women.
If you want to know exactly how much fluid you need during exercise, experts recommends weighting yourself before and after exercise, to see how much you’ve lost through perspiration. A rule of thumb is every pound of sweat you lose, that’s a pint of water you’ll need to replenish.
Not sweating during vigorous physical activity can be a red flag that you’re dehydrated to the point of developing heat exhaustion.

Getting enough fluids during the winter is just as important as when temperatures are high. When you’re exposed to extreme temperatures – whether it’s very hot or very cold – your body uses more water to maintain is normal temperature. Also, in the winter you’re exposed to heated air, which evaporates water from your skin.