IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  June 1, 2006

Cauliflower Has Gained Respect, Devotees

Though cauliflower is native to Asian countries, it made its way to North America in the late 1600s. Two hundred years later, Mark Twain called it "a cabbage with a college education!"

Cauliflower is so smart it can grow by the light of the full moon almost as well as during the day. It's sometimes called the "moon crop."

People who eat cauliflower are smart too. At the Foundation for Preventive Oncology in New York, they say it is one of the best healing foods you can buy, especially when it's eaten raw.

The carotenoids in cauliflower make it a powerful defender against cataracts.

Its sulforaphe helps prevent cancer by increasing production of enzymes that sweep toxins out of the body before they can damage cells and make them cancerous.

Its other cancer-fighter, I3C, works as an anti-estrogen. It reduces harmful estrogen levels that can cause tumor growth in the colon, breast, and prostate.

But cauliflower does more than fight cancer and protect the eyes. It's rich in vitamin C and folate, nutrients that keep the immune system working well. Just three florets of uncooked cauliflower can supply two-thirds of your daily value for vitamin C.

Cauliflower gratin with ham

Divide a 2 pound. cauliflower into florets. Cook in salt water 5 or 6 minutes. Drain it and run cold water over it.

Carefully brown 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs in 1/2 tablespoon butter and set aside.

In a small pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add 2 tablespoons flour, blend. Cook 1 minute, then add 3/4 cup milk, 3/4 cup chicken broth, a bay leaf, and a clove of garlic. Stir and simmer 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove bay leaf, garlic.

Cut florets to similar sizes. Put in a buttered baking dish, salt and pepper. Pour sauce on florets. Tear 1 ounce thin ham slices apart and scatter on it.

Top with a cup of shredded cheddar. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.

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Placebo Effect

If you think it helps, it probably will.

Research is showing that expectations can have physical, not just psychological, effects on our health. It's a new spin on the placebo effect.

Columbia University neuroscientist Tor Wagner says expectations have profound impacts on your brain and your health. There is new evidence that the effect is physical and that expecting benefits can trigger the same neurological pathways of healing as the real medication does.

Dr. Fabrizio Benedetti of Italy's University of Torino Medical School has been studying the placebo effect on patients with Parkinson's disease. When patients were given a placebo, the electrical activity of individual nerve cells in a movement-controlling part of the brain quieted about 40 percent. The patients could move more easily.

In another study, patients hooked to a computerized morphine injection system were sometimes given a dose without their knowing it. The morphine was up to 50 percent more effective when patients knew it was coming. They expected less pain.

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Chicken Eaters Get Fewer Colon Polyps

Researchers across the U.S. studied participants' diets to determine a relationship between fat, fiber, meat intake, and colorectal polyps. Polyps are usually benign but can become cancerous.

The study reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that there was no apparent association between fat and total red meat intake, but the risk was higher in those who had higher intake of processed meats.

The doctors were surprised to discover that those who had the highest intake of chicken were 39 percent less likely to develop advanced polyps than those who ate chicken less often.

The type of meat people eat can make a difference.

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Exercise Helps to Balance Cholesterol

Many factors influence cholesterol levels including diet, family history, body weight, and even hormones. But when people start an exercise program, good HDL cholesterol levels begin to rise within a few weeks.

Exercise also has another big benefit. It changes the makeup of the cholesterol particles themselves, making them less dangerous to the heart. It's good news to hear that exercise can create these positive changes regardless of diet and body weight, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers found that it was the amount of exercise that brought about these changes. Many people think they have to exercise vigorously, but that was not found to be the case. The length of time spent in exercising was more important.

The fact that these benefits came from exercise alone is significant. They were not from weight loss as some other studies assumed. That means that exercise decreases cholesterol problems even in people who are overweight.

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Desktop Dining

When you know you'll be lunching at work, remember that your tasty, healthful carry-in begins at the grocery store. Just taking whatever happens to be in fridge doesn't cut it.

Plan to eat well by including sandwiches and vegetables with fruit for dessert.

If you feel a mid-afternoon slump coming on, get a glass of water. Dehydration creates a low-energy feeling. Walk around to get your blood pumping, or eat popcorn, almonds, or fruit. Coffee and sweets give an energy boost but can result in an energy crash shortly thereafter.

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Whooping Cough

Large outbreaks of whooping cough have prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to call for all adults to get the Adacel Booster shot. It protects against whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus. The shots people got as babies may no longer be effective.

Adults who catch the highly contagious cough usually get a mild but long-lasting infection, which explains the disease's nickname, the 100-day cough. Getting the booster is especially important for adults who are around children.

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Meditation improves memory

Everyone knows that meditation can reduce stress. But researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital say it directly affects the function and structure of the brain. It increases attention span, sharpens focus, and improves memory.

With the aid of advanced brain scanning technology, one study shows that daily meditation thickens the parts of the brain's cerebral cortex responsible for decision making, attention, and memory.

The test subjects were Boston-area workers practicing Western-style meditation, called mindfulness or insight meditation. For 40 minutes a day, they focused on an image, or a sound, or on their own breathing. The Insight Meditation Society recommends just sitting in a chair.

Close your eyes and follow your breath. Feel the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen. If your mind wanders, it's OK. Watch what happens when your mind wanders. Notice it, observe it, then let it go and go back to breathing. Be aware of what you're thinking without being caught up in it.

With practice, you can develop a state called mindfulness, which is being aware of what's going on as it arises without jumping to conclusions, judgments, hopes, fears, or plans.

A growing number of corporations, including Deutsche Bank, Google, and Hughes Aircraft offer meditation classes to their workers. Making people think better is one benefit, but meditation also improved productivity and reduced absenteeism, probably because it prevented stress-related illness.

Meditation seems to help regulate emotions, which helps people get along better. It acts on emotional intelligence, which neuroscientists at the University of Wisconsin say is more important for life success than cognitive intelligence.

To learn more, read Insight Meditation (Sounds True) by Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein.

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May is National Arthritis Month

How to keep arthritis away, or reduce symptoms if you already have it
If there is arthritis in your family, and even if there isn't, there is one thing you can do to keep it away. Lose weight. A 10-pound loss reduces joint stress.

If you already have osteoarthritis pain, it could be a symptom of dehydration in the joints. Increasing water intake often improves the condition after about four weeks, the time needed to rehydrate the joints. Drink half your body weight in ounces each day. If you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces or 10 eight-ounce glasses per day.

Eat foods that fight inflammation such as fish and nuts. Limit animal fats, which can trigger inflammation. Take a multivitamin.

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and elsewhere have found that aerobic exercise or resistance exercise reduces an arthritis patient's risk of disability. Try walking, riding a bike, tai chi, or swimming.

A new study by the National Institutes of health shows that glucosamine and chrondroiton supplements had little effect on mild to moderate arthritis. In cases of moderate to severe arthritis, however, 79 percent of users reported reduced pain, a higher percentage than from a major prescription drug.

The study leader, Dr. Daniel Clegg, chief of rheumatology at the University of Utah, hopes people who get benefits from the supplements will continue taking them. Long term use of pain relievers like aspirin can result in internal bleeding and life-threatening problems. And prescription drugs don't work for some people.

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Spring is Prime Time for Asthma, Allergies

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation estimates that 32 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. If you are among them, there is plenty you can do to keep symptoms under control.

Allergists at Temple University say the spring season is intense because trees ramp up their production of pollen. They release as much pollen as possible in spring so it can be spread by the wind.

No need to get rid of spring flowers in your yard. Bees are working vigorously to spread flower pollen in an efficient manner. Avoiding tree pollen should be your goal. Pollen counts are higher in the morning. Don't jog or play golf early in the day and avoid going out after it rains. Raindrops kick up the pollen.

If you have spent time outdoors, change your clothes and wash them.
When none of these avoidance techniques have worked for you, over-the-counter medications can help. Antihistamines are a traditional treatment, but they can cause drowsiness. Newer drugs such as Claritin and Alavert tackle the symptoms better and don't make you sleepy.

If you have severe allergies, consider getting a skin test or blood test to determine what you are allergic to. Once you know, you could undergo a series of allergy shots. They will ultimately work, but could take a year or more to be effective.

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Biking

Bicycling is fun, promotes fitness and it's good transportation to work.
It wakes you up in the morning and can be less stressful than driving.
Riding a bike to work can save a lot of money, on average more than $1,200 in half a year or $400 in three months.

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New Drug, Five Benefits

It could take up to two years to achieve approval by the Food and Drug Administration, but when it happens, rimonabant could be an important new health maintenance tool. Developed by Sanofi-Aventis and trade named Acomplia, studies show that it helps to reduce body fat, helps to boost good cholesterol, reduces triglycerides, and may help smokers quit.

Doctors at the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Houston say it also improves insulin sensitivity. For smokers reluctant to quit for fear of gaining weight, the drug could be particularly attractive. It makes positive changes in how the body metabolizes nicotine.

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