IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  December 1, 2012

A holiday special: Sweet potato casserole

This tried and true recipe will be a hit at your holiday dinner.

Although the sweet potato relatively low calorie, this recipe includes a lot of sugar, although some substitutions can be made (see below)

On the plus side, the sweet potato is loaded with vitamin A, three times your daily value, plus generous amounts of vitamins C and B6

Sweet potato casserole

1 40-ounce can sweet potatoes or
2 1/2 pounds cooked fresh sweet potatoes
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted and cooled
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup butter or margarine, chilled
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped.

With a potato masher or food processor, puree sweet potatoes. Add milk, melted butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract.

In another bowl, (for the topping) stir together the brown sugar and flour.

Slice chilled butter into the brown sugar mixture. With your fingers or a pastry blender, blend in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and evenly mixed. Stir in chopped nuts.

Spread the sweet potato mixture in a greased or spray-coated baking dish and distribute the crumbles over it. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

If baked, you can store the dish for 4 to 6 days in the refrigerator or 2 to 3 months in the freezer.

To freeze the ingredients, place the sweet potato mixture in a one-gallon freezer bag and the topping in a quart size freezer bag, and freeze. Store the bags for 2 to 4 days in the refrigerator or 2 to 3 months in the freezer.

If you limit sugar in your diet, reduce the white sugar to 1/2 cup and the brown sugar to 3/4, or substitute Splenda for part of the sugar.

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After Christmas dinner, a healthy walk completes the day, and it's fun

Christmas morning is exciting and traditionally it goes like this: First the presents: the kids will let nothing stand in the way of their march to the Christmas tree. After everyone has a light breakfast, comes the second-most exciting event of the day ... Christmas dinner.

For some families, taking a walk half an hour to an hour after dinner is traditional. The walk is healthy fun for adults, kids and the family dog.
It can be a leisurely walk or a brisk walk, whatever your group enjoys. An old saying is, "Walk a hundred steps after dinner and you'll live to be 99."

Actually, to increase longevity, studies say you need to walk a little more than that, but not a whole lot more.

Walking for 10 minutes on Christmas and other days, can change your body weight, lower your cholesterol and decrease your risk of stroke and other serious diseases. People who benefit most from 10-minute walks are those who normally don't exercise at all.

For them, the 10-minute idea generates something of a can-do attitude. While prevailing advice calls for a 30-minute walk on most days, if you're a non-exerciser, that can be intimidating.

The nice thing about a 10-minute walk is that as you learn to enjoy it, the time could morph into 12 or 15 minutes or more. Every minute increases the benefits.

If you reach the recommended 30-minute level, you will also enjoy lower blood pressure and increased cognitive function. Your brain will work better, just as the rest of your body will.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say walking is almost the perfect physical activity.


Chuckles Corner

Here's how to 'go nuts' without gaining weight

It's no wonder that we like nuts. Scientific evidence shows it's a hereditary human characteristic passed down from the Stone Age to prehistoric nomads and Egyptian kings.

Some modern doubters say they do believe that nuts have great vitamin and protein content, but they are also high in fats. They think nuts can make them gain weight.

Doctors at Tufts University say it's true that eating a handful of nuts each day can boost your daily calories by 10 percent or more. But people who eat more nuts typically don't weigh more.

A 2011 Harvard University study shows that, over a period of 20 years, nuts ranked second only to yogurt as a food linked to weight loss.

Note that potato chips were found to be the top food causing weight gain.

Here are some nutty facts for you to consider:

  • Almonds, peanuts and pistachios have the highest protein content of almost all nuts.
  • Macadamias, Brazils, and pecan halves have the highest monounsaturated fat content (as in olive oil).
  • Almonds, cashews and pistachios have the highest levels of potassium.
  • All nuts have magnesium, zinc, copper, vitamin B6, folate, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin E and calcium.

    You don't have to eat a whole handful to get benefits. You can sprinkle nuts on steamed vegetables, stir-fries, ice cream, frozen yogurt and salads.


    ED treatment approved for enlargement of the prostate

    The Food and Drug Administration recently approved tadalafil (Cialis) for urinary problems associated with an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say tadalafil has beneficial effects, but by itself it probably isn't enough for more severe symptoms.

    For men who have both erectile dysfunction and urinary symptoms of BPH, it's worth trying. The risk of side effects with tadalafil is relatively low, with backache and headache being the most common.

    The downsides of tadalafil include cost, since there is no generic equivalent. Additionally, tadalafil can't be used by men who take nitrate medications for heart problems.

    Traditional treatment for BPH includes alpha blocker drugs and 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, or a combination of the two. It is not known whether tadalafil in combination with one of these drugs would be more beneficial.


    Hypertension named 'public health enemy No. 2'

    In many cases, high blood pressure has no symptoms, which could be why more than half of the 67 million Americans who have hypertension are doing little or nothing to control it.

    CDC Director Thomas Frieden has labeled high blood pressure "public health enemy No. 2." It's right behind tobacco.

    High blood pressure is defined as a reading greater or equal to 140/90

    Normal blood pressure is 120/80

    Moderately high blood pressure is 120 to 139 over 80 to 89

    In hypertension, blood flows through your arteries with too much force. It stretches arteries past their healthy limit, causing microscopic tears, says the American Heart Association.

    Scar tissue that forms to repair the tears traps plaque and white blood cells, which can lead to blockages, clots and hardened or weakened arteries, according to the AHA.

    Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States. It causes more than 1,000 deaths every day.

    About 36 million people have uncontrolled high blood pressure; 26 million have seen a doctor for it, but 22 million still don't have it under control.

    Many of these patients take medicine for hypertension, but it may be that their treatment plan isn't right, or maybe they aren't taking their pills faithfully.
    Medicine for high blood pressure works for nearly all patients.

    Millions of Americans have high blood pressure but don't know it.


    New research: TIAs can have long-term effects

    A new study published in the online journal Stroke, analyzed adults' death records for up to nine years after hospitalization for a TIA (transient ischemic attack, often called a mini stroke). The study showed that the life expectancy of these patients was lower than that of the general population. Further, life expectancy was even lower in older people.

    Several factors may explain the findings. But doctors at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the take-home point is that individuals already treated for a TIA have more to gain from controlling their risk factors than those who have never had one.

    Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and an abnormal heart rhythm (arterial fibrillation).


    College students suffer from sleep deprivation

    Colleges are recognizing how sleep deprivation can harm students' health and grades. At the University of Delaware, psychologists say when students have depression or anxiety, 80 to 90 percent of the time it's a sleep problem.

    Some colleges are giving new students ear plugs, sleep shades and napping lessons. They have found that healthy sleep habits can be a miracle drug for much of what ails students, including depression, physical health and academic troubles.

    In addition to 24/7 activities, the Internet and students sleeping with their cell phones, it's no surprise that students are averaging six hours of sleep per night when they should get nine hours.


  • Outdoors: Single-vision glasses may be a safer choice

    One problem with bifocals or trifocals: they don't allow you a clear vision when you have to look down quickly.

    That means people who regularly take part in outdoor activities, like hiking, are less likely to trip and fall if they have a pair of single lens glasses for outdoor use. The advice is particularly helpful for senior sportsters.

    Research reported in the British Medical Journal shows that half of the participants in a recent study were given single lens glasses and given instructions on how to use them. The other half wore their bifocals.

    During a follow-up, it was found that the total number of falls among those who wore single lenses regularly when outdoors, dropped by 40 percent. Based on these findings, it's recommended that hikers, picnickers and others who are outdoors frequently, especially in unfamiliar territory, will be safer when wearing single lens glasses. It's more true for those with more limited vision.

    Those who spend little time outdoors, of course, should still use their multifocal glasses for most activities.


    Tanning beds blamed for many of the most serious cases of cancer

    At least 170,000 cancers a year are linked to indoor tanning beds. These cancers include basal-cell carcinoma and squamous-cell carcinoma, skin cancers that aren't usually life-threatening.

    People who have used indoor tanning are 29 percent more likely to develop basal-cell carcinomas. Those who started tanning before age 25 have the highest risk, according to an analysis of 12 studies done in six countries.

    Other research links indoor tanning with malignant melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

    People using indoor tanning are 67 percent more likely to develop more serious squamous-cell carcinomas, say dermatologists at the University of California-San Francisco.


    Advice from the CDC: Holiday safety and health for families

    Wash your hands often. Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

    Stay warm. Cold temperatures can cause serious health problems, especially in infants and older adults. Stay dry, and dress warmly in several layers of loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing.

    Manage stress. Keep a check on over-commitment and over-spending. Balance work, home, and play. Get support from family and friends. Keep a relaxed and positive outlook and get enough sleep.

    Travel safely by car. Whether you're traveling across town or across the country, take steps to ensure that your trip is safe. Don't drink and drive, and don't let someone else drink and drive. Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle. Always buckle your child in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt according to his/her height, weight, and age.

    Watch the kids. Children are at high risk for injuries. Keep a watchful eye on them when they're eating and playing. Have potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, choking hazards (like coins and hard candy), and other objects out of kids' reach. Learn how to provide early treatment for children who are choking, and make sure toys are used properly.

    Prevent injuries. Injuries can occur anywhere and some occur around the holidays. Use step stools instead of furniture when hanging decorations.

    Keep candles away from children, pets, walkways, trees, and curtains.

    Never leave fireplaces, stoves, or candles unattended. Don't use generators, grills, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home or garage.


    'The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful

    Winter officially starts December 21 and kids of all ages are singing "Let it Snow!"

    Although the lyrics of this still popular 1945 song speak of frightful winter weather, excitement usually greets December snows.

    Kids and not-so-young kids bundle in warm clothing and head outdoors. It's not just child's play to romp in the snow, and it's practically a rite of passage to get into an occasional all-out, no-holds-barred snowball fight!. It doesn't cost anything to make snowballs ... or to make a snow angel.

    Pond hockey, tobogganing, and sledding can wait. First comes the creating of an original Frosty the Snowman.

    While singing the weather song and conjuring visions of the 1969 animated television special that plays annually, amateur sculptors start with three snowballs and roll them across the freshly fallen snow into body parts: the torso, chest and head. Forget the song's version of a corncob pipe, button nose and black top hat. Young artists are more likely to use a carrot nose, charcoal briquettes for eyes and a big grin, sticks for arms and an old neck scarf and earmuffs or a Santa hat.

    When dad gets involved and the snow's just right, it's time to build the biggest snow fort for local bragging rights. It takes a heavy snowstorm to produce high drifts of wet, malleable, snow that can be molded and hardened.

    Although the usual snow fort is built as a fortress to protect the builder from the snowballs of "enemies," more mature artists are creating snow castles with turrets and awesome details.

    The biggest snow fort in the world is rebuilt annually and of different architecture. The SnowCastle of Kemi, Finland, contains a hotel, restaurant, chapel, theater and an ice art exhibition. Guests can spend the night in one of the 18 bedrooms, snuggled in thermal sleeping bags.