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Take care of your body and its parts

December 31, 2003|by LYNN F. LITTLE

From ads on the radio, it is obvious that car and truck dealers know that winter is here. Numerous local shops offer deals to winterize your vehicle so you won't be stuck out in the snow and cold. This is an example of how people take better care of their vehicles than of their bodies.

Think about fuel for a minute. Smart people do not drive around with empty gas tanks. Yet, people often expect their bodies and brains to run on empty - as they skip meals or eliminate entire food groups on one fad diet or another.

When it comes to fuel, it's critical to consider quality as well as quantity. In addition to filling the tank, you have to choose the right fuel for your vehicle. No one in his or her right mind would put unleaded gas into the tank of a diesel truck. Yet, we often put the wrong fuel into our bodies - and still expect our internal engine to run well.

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We need to take care of our bodies. Here are four easy ways to "winterize" your body - and to stay strong and healthy into the new year. Remember, human replacement parts are very hard to find.

Fill up with the right stuff


In terms of fuel, it's important to get the right quality and quantity of carbohydrates. Your body, especially the control center in your brain, needs carbohydrates to operate efficiently.

Not all carbs are created equal. Simple carbohydrates (or sugars) are found in table sugar, soft drinks and candy. They offer calories and little else. Cutting back on these empty calories leaves more room for power foods and is often the key to a healthy weight.

The other carbs, complex carbohydrates, are the human equivalent of high-test fuel. Complex carbohydrates (aka starches) provide energy, vitamins, minerals and fiber. For the right fuel mixture, combine complex carbs with plenty of muscle-building protein and moderate amounts of fat.

To optimize your health, choose whole-grain foods as your preferred source of carbs. Whole grains help to lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and birth defects - and they are essential to keep things moving through your intestinal tract.

Bottom line: Enjoy four to six servings of grains per day - and try for at least three servings of whole grains. Look for foods (like cereals, breads and muffins) with whole grain (like whole wheat or whole oats) as the first item on the ingredient list.

Refill fluids regularly


Nutrition experts often refer to water as "the forgotten nutrient" because people forget to drink enough fluids. That's unfortunate because being well-hydrated has enormous health benefits.

Water acts as your body's coolant (just like in your vehicle's radiator) and helps get rid of waste products and toxic substances. Research has shown that drinking lots of water also may help prevent heart disease and bladder cancer.

Getting plenty of fluids is one of the nicest things you can do for your skin. Fluids keep your skin moisturized - and looking younger - from the inside out. Staying hydrated also moisturizes the membranes in your nose and throat, which can help prevent and minimize those nasty winter coughs and colds.

When you are refilling your body's fluids, choose high-test liquids. Although almost any liquid will help hydration levels, some are better than others. Water is cheap, refreshing and calorie-free. It goes with anything, and you can find it anywhere. Milk has calcium and protein, while fruit and veggie juices offer vitamins and minerals.

Bottom line: Tank up with two to three quarts of fluid per day. Start with a basic six 8-ounce glasses, and then add another 8 ounces for every half-hour of strenuous activity you do. Drink more water, low-fat milk and juices. Minimize your intake of pop, coffee and alcohol.

Enjoy 'rust inhibitors'


In the old days, especially in areas where they salted roads, cars used to just rust away. Newer materials and anti-rust coatings now extend the life of most new vehicles. You can help extend the life of your body by enjoying nature's own rust inhibitors. These are the famous phytonutrients found in all plant foods - fruits, vegetables, beans and grains.

Hundreds of scientific studies show that eating five to nine servings of produce a day can help lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, and maintain the health of your bones and eyes. Basically, fruits and vegetables can help you live long - and live well.

In terms of winter (the cold and flu season), produce is packed with nutrients that help build and maintain a strong immune system. Phytonutrients, like vitamin C, are the compounds that help plants fight bacteria and viruses. Why not put them to work for you fighting cold and flu bugs inside your body?

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