TIME Exercise/Fitness

Your Lungs: A User’s Manual

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Better workouts, less coughing and wheezing, even a longer life? Yep. Here's your guide to open airways

Inhale. Exhale. You take 15 to 20 breaths a minute—more than 20,000 breaths a day. With each one, oxygen travels through your bloodstream, fueling your body’s cells. Trouble is, we bombard our lungs with pollutants and irritants such as secondhand smoke and fumes from household cleaning supplies. “Still, lungs are resilient,” says Ravi Kalhan, MD, director of the Asthma/COPD Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Keep them healthy and they will protect you into old age.” Read on, and start breathing easy.

GET FIT
While exercise doesn’t increase lung capacity per se, “it strengthens heart muscles so your heart is better able to pump oxygenated blood through your body,” says Doreen Addrizzo-Harris, MD, associate professor of pulmonology at the NYU Medical Center. “Your lungs then don’t have to work as hard.” You’ll exercise more efficiently and feel less winded.

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Exercise can also trim belly fat, which is linked to a higher risk of asthma. “We think the excess fat associated with obesity increases inflammation in the body, which affects the lungs,” says Neil Schachter, MD, a pulmonologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. To see results, you need consistent exercise, raising your heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week, says Jason Turowski, MD, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic. If you’ve got asthma, it might be hard to maintain an intense workout, but lower-key activities may help reduce airway inflammation. In one study, asthmatic adults who walked for 20 to 30 minutes three times a week at a moderate pace reported improvement in their symptoms. Swimming is another option, especially during the frigid winter months. The warm, moist air at an indoor pool is asthma-friendly. (But don’t swim in a pool that’s strongly chlorinated; irritation from the fumes can counteract the benefits.)

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EAT SMART

“An anti-inflammatory diet helps decrease airway inflammation, which has been linked to respiratory diseases such as COPD and asthma,” notes Melissa Young, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. Fill up with these foods:

Fruits and veggies: They’re packed with antioxidants, which can help repair damage from air pollution. It doesn’t matter what kind, as long as you eat plenty of them.

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Flaxseeds: They contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to be connected to a lower risk of asthma.

White wine: Vino drinkers—especially those who sip white—have healthier lungs. (Researchers theorize it’s due to wine’s high antioxidant capacity.)

Olive oil: It has monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation, and alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E associated with better lung function.

A cup of joe: Caffeine has a similar effect as the drug therophyllin, which opens up the airways,” Dr. Turowski says.

Tomato sauce: Research suggests that lycopene—the antioxidant famously found in tomatoes—may protect you against exercise-induced asthma.

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CLEAR THE AIR

Air pollution claims more than 3.2 million lives worldwide every year, according to the 2013 Global Burden of Disease Study. Why? The tiny particles penetrate the lungs, causing cancer and other respiratory illnesses. We don’t expect you to flee L.A. for Idaho, but there are precautions that everyone should take.

Check the forecast: You can find the Air Quality Index (AQI) at airnow.gov. On days that the AQI in your area is high (over 150 if you have no lung issues, over 100 if you’ve got a breathing problem), consider taking your workout indoors. If you do exercise outdoors, avoid routes near traffic.

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Don’t idle your car: It releases as much pollution as a moving vehicle, and you’re in the middle of the mist. Turn off the ignition if you’re waiting more than 10 seconds, and warm up your engine by driving. (Your car and its engine warm up faster when you drive.)

Make a P.M. pit stop: As you fill your tank, gas emissions evaporate and form ozone, a component of smog. Hit the pump after dark to keep the sun from turning those gases into pollutants.

REHAB YOUR HOME
Air pollution in your house may be worse than what’s festering outdoors. Here’s how to clear the air, stat.

Go electric: Your home heating and AC system should ideally operate on electricity, not oil, since the latter releases more particulates. Most homes built after 2000 do, but if you’re living in an older home that uses oil, consider installing a home air-filtration system for a few thousand dollars.

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Get tested: Every two years, your home should be tested for radon—an odorless natural gas that’s found in one in every 15 homes in the U.S. and is the second leading cause of lung cancer. You can hire a certified company to do it, or buy a test kit for $15 to $25 at a hardware store or throughsosradon.org/test-kits. If radon concentrations exceed 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), you’ll need to install a radon reduction system (up to $1,500).

Keep humidity low: A too-damp environment is a breeding ground for mold, a common allergen. The EPA recommends keeping humidity under 60% in the summer and between 25 and 40% in winter. You can measure humidity with a hygrometer ($20 to $40 at a hardware store). If the air is too dry, use a humidifier. It it’s too wet, try a dehumidifier.

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Trade in your fireplace: The particulate matter in wood smoke can damage your heart and lungs. Switch to a cleaner-burning gas or wood stove certified by the EPA, or put in an electronic fireplace or gas insert (about $1,000 to $3,000) for fewer emissions. To learn more, go to epa.gov/burnwise.

STAY SAFE FROM THIRDHAND SMOKE
You know not to smoke and to keep away from secondhand smoke. But there’s something called thirdhand smoke—residual tobacco fumes that adhere to walls and furniture and then off-gas slowly into the indoor environment. This stuff isn’t just smelly: It reacts with indoor pollutants, such as ozone and nitrous acid, creating compounds that lock onto your cells’ DNA and cause potentially cancer-causing damage, according to research presented at the American Chemical Society’s 2014 meeting. While the risk is higher for babies and toddlers (as they crawl around the house, they may stir up and inhale these compounds), pretty much anyone is susceptible.

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When traveling, insist on smoke-free hotel rooms, and avoid homes of friends who smoke (even if they’re not lighting up in front of you, their furniture can reek). If you inherit the home of a smoker, remove affected items like sofas and carpets, repaint and bring in a professional to thoroughly clean the air-ventilation system.

DID YOUR DUVET GIVE YOU ASTHMA?
You’ve never had asthma before, but lately you’re constantly short of breath. What gives? “It’s not uncommon for a 40-something woman to suddenly complain of asthmalike symptoms,” Dr. Addrizzo-Harris says. A typical trigger: being exposed to an allergen you haven’t faced in years, such as feather bedding or mold. “I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a patient who reports symptoms starting as soon as she moves into a new house,” Dr. Turowski says. “Usually a moldy basement is the culprit.”

HEALTH.COM: 20 Ways to Stop Allergies

A WOMAN’S PROBLEM?
How the three P’s of womanhood can mess with your breathing.

You’re about to get your period: Up to 40% of women with asthma report that their symptoms worsen immediately before their period. “During this time, estrogen levels drop, and we think that these fluctuations somehow activate an inflammatory response in a woman’s airways,” Dr. Kalhan says. As a result, you’re more likely to cough, feel short of breath and wheeze. Talk to your doc about increasing asthma meds on these days; research also suggests that taking birth control pills (to ward off hormone rises and dips) may help.

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You’re pregnant: In the first few weeks of pregnancy, an increase in the hormone progesterone causes you to breathe more often, which may make you feel like you’re short of breath when you really aren’t. (The hormone expands your lung capacity, allowing your blood to carry large quantities of oxygen to your baby.) This sensation disappears, then re-emerges around your third trimester, when your uterus begins to press on your diaphragm, making it harder for your lungs to fully expand. But there’s relief soon: During the final month of pregnancy, your baby will “drop” into your pelvis, taking pressure off your lungs.

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You’re going through perimenopause: As you approach menopause, estrogen levels ride a veritable roller coaster, and those dramatic peaks and drops can trigger inflammation that sets off an asthma attack. Research has shown that menopausal women are twice as prone to severe asthma as similarly aged men. If you notice your wheezing getting worse, talk to your gyno about going on the pill or using hormone therapy to help ease you through the transition. The good news is that once your ovaries have closed up shop, your asthma should improve.

This piece originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Cancer

The Hidden Dangers of Medical Scans

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Medical imaging tests are exposing more of us to potentially cancer-causing radiation. Here's when you really need that scan—€”and when you should just say no

Over the past ten years, Jill Nelson, 52, a health coach, personal trainer and counselor in Chicago, has received at least seven computed tomography (CT) scans and close to 30 sets of X-rays for a variety of health ailments—from two separate disk fusions in her spine to a worrisome-looking spot on her lung. That’s on top of the 10 or so mammograms she has had since age 35, plus dozens of dental X-rays. “With all that radiation, I’m surprised I don’t glow,” she says. “It makes me a little uneasy—in trying to get my health problems diagnosed, did I increase my risk of cancer?”

Jill’s concern is shared by a growing number of doctors and medical organizations, who are worried about the soaring use of medical imaging tests that rely on ionizing radiation. This radiation can damage your cells’ DNA, which may, over time, lead to cancer. The more you’re exposed to, the riskier it is. And thanks to the increase in CT scans—which typically emit far higher doses of radiation than traditional X-rays or even other imaging tests like mammograms—exposure has risen dramatically. In 1980, only about 3 million CT scans were performed in the United States. By 2013, that number had skyrocketed to 76 million.

Exactly how dangerous are all those zaps? In 2009, National Cancer Institute researchers estimated that the 72 million CT scans performed in 2007 could lead to as many as 29,000 future cases of cancer. And a couple of years ago, when the Institute of Medicine looked broadly at the environmental causes of breast cancer, it concluded that one factor that’s strongly associated with risk of developing the disease is ionizing radiation.

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That sounds scary—and it is. “Limiting exposure to medical radiation should be on every woman’s cancer-prevention list,” says Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD, professor of radiology, epidemiology, biostatistics and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco. Yet the tests are widely overused, research finds. “About a third of CT scans are clinically unnecessary or could be avoided by using conventional X-rays or an imaging test that doesn’t use radiation, like ultrasound or MRI,” says David J. Brenner, PhD, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center.

The challenge is figuring out whether the CT your doctor wants you to have is essential or not—a judgment call that is difficult for the average person to make. CT scans can, in fact, be lifesaving. “They’ve revolutionized medicine in almost every area you can imagine, including helping prevent unnecessary exploratory surgeries and diagnosing and treating cancers, heart disease and stroke, ” Brenner says. Price and time can also be a factor since CT scans are cheaper and faster than an MRI. (For a cost comparison of common imaging tests, go to health.com/scan-costs.)

Understanding the risks of medical radiation—as well as the real benefits—will better prepare you to make the best decision no matter when you’re faced with it. Here’s what you must know to avoid unneeded radiation.

Weighing the rewards and risks

When you receive a traditional X-ray, a small amount of radiation passes through your tissues in order to create a two-dimensional image of your insides in shades of gray. Air is black because it doesn’t absorb any X-rays, while bones are white because they absorb a lot, and organs are somewhere in between.

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CT scanners, on the other hand, rotate around the body, sending numerous X-ray beams (and multiple times the amount of radiation) from a variety of angles. A computer processes the data to create three-dimensional pictures, providing a far more detailed view. “CTs allow us to see behind and around structures in the body in three dimensions with exquisite resolution,” Brenner says. As a result, they’re an indispensable tool in diagnosing all sorts of frightening health problems, such as finding small, early cancers (particularly in the lungs, liver and kidneys) or spotting internal injuries after a serious accident.

“They can detect differences between normal and abnormal tissue about 1,000 times better than a traditional X-ray,” says Richard Morin, PhD, professor of radiologic physics at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. “Before CTs, if we suspected cancer in the abdomen or internal organs, we had to cut the patient open and do exploratory surgery, which could mean a weeks-long hospital stay. Now with a single scan we can confidently make the call in minutes, and the patient walks out the door afterward. If it’s an appropriately ordered exam, the benefit is far, far greater than any radiation risk.”

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But the ease and accuracy of CTs has also fueled an alarming level of overuse. Have a headache that prompts a trip to the ER? Odds are good you’ll get a CT, even though current guidelines say that doctors shouldn’t perform imaging tests on patients with migraines or chronic headaches. Brain scans, whether a CT or an MRI, are worthwhile only if you have a headache with other worrisome symptoms, such as weakness or numbness on one side of your body, explains Brian Callaghan, MD, a neurologist at the University of Michigan. Even so, he and his colleagues recently found that about one in eight headache-related doctor visits result in a brain scan—and nearly half those patients are getting CTs, even though MRIs are more effective for peering into the brain.

“The goal isn’t to eliminate CTs but to use them more prudently,” Dr. Smith-Bindman says. “When my son did a head-dive out of a tree and was vomiting afterward, the ER doc recommended a CT scan to rule out a brain bleed, and I was happy to have the test. Five years later, when he hit his head skiing, it was pretty clear he just had a concussion, and the ER doc didn’t think a CT was necessary, so we didn’t get it. Doctors and patients need to step back a little and say, ‘Yes, this is a great test, but is it really necessary?’ If you have a CT when it’s not necessary, it won’t do any good—which means it can only do harm.”

The radiation equation

X-rays and CT scans use so-called ionizing radiation, which contains enough energy to penetrate the body—and can damage DNA in your cells. Any damage that isn’t repaired can lead to DNA mutations, and those glitches in a cell’s programming center can, over many years, lead to cancer.

And we know that it does. “There’s not a single cancer-causing agent that has been studied more thoroughly than ionizing radiation,” Dr. Smith-Bindman says. Survivors of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki who were exposed to even very low doses were more likely to get practically every type of cancer, from leukemia to lung cancer. Nursing mothers who were treated with radiation for breast infections—a common practice in the 1920s and ’30s—developed breast cancer at higher rates than those who weren’t. Those of us who’ve had more sunburns (caused by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation) are at higher risk of getting skin cancer. And the newest studies reveal that children who undergo CT scans of the head, abdomen or chest are more likely to develop brain cancer and leukemia over the next 10 years.

For reasons that are unclear, women seem to be slightly more sensitive to radiation than men. Children are more vulnerable than adults; not only do their growing bodies and rapidly multiplying cells put them at a higher risk, they also have far more years ahead of them during which they could develop cancer.

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However, it’s important to note that our bodies are able to repair damage done to our cells by low levels of radiation. “If they weren’t, everyone who goes out in the sun would get skin cancer,” points out James Brink, MD, radiologist in chief at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The poison is in the dose, says John Boice, ScD, president of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements and professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University. And the effects of exposure might be cumulative. “What may happen is that our bodies repair damage from small doses, but at higher doses our repair mechanisms are overwhelmed,” Dr. Brink explains. “And after that, subsequent exposure to radiation may propel the damaged cells farther down the path toward cancer.”

The actual danger to an individual receiving a scan (or even two or three) is relatively low. The overall risk of the average woman getting cancer at some point in her lifetime is about 38 percent; getting a single CT scan raises that risk to perhaps 38.001 percent, Boice explains. But since no one knows who is most likely to be affected, there is an element of radiation roulette at play.

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What’s more, we’re marinating in low-level radiation every day. The average person in the United States receives about 3 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation per year (more if you live at a high altitude) from the sun and naturally occurring radiation in the environment, such as radon gas. To put medical radiation in that context, a dental X-ray is equivalent to about one day of natural radiation, while a single chest X-ray is equivalent to about 10 days. A mammogram adds up to about seven weeks of natural radiation—but even that level, doctors say, poses a relatively small risk, especially when compared with the danger of missing a malignant tumor already growing in your breast. A regular-dose chest CT, on the other hand, exposes you to about two years’ worth of natural background radiation, or 7 mSv. Some of the Japanese survivors of atomic bombs were probably exposed to between 5 and 20 mSv on the low end. The trouble is, we don’t fully know how much our bodies can handle.

What doctors don’t know can hurt us

The issue of medical radiation is now on most physicians’ and medical societies’ radars; just this fall, the American Heart Association called for doctors to learn about, and discuss with patients, the risks of radiation exposure from cardiovascular imaging tests. So it’s surprising—and concerning—how spotty regulations still are. For instance, dosages aren’t standardized across imaging centers, which means that one hospital or clinic may be delivering up to 50 times as much radiation as another facility, according to Dr. Smith-Bindman. “If machines are set too low, they provide blurry, unusable images, but the vast majority are set higher than they need to be,” she says. This is in part because it’s not a simple matter of pressing one button and lowering the dose. “There are formulas you need to use to set up a new protocol,” Dr. Smith-Bindman explains.

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And because most older machines, many of which are still in use, don’t have warning systems to alert technologists when radiation levels are set too high, mistakes can happen. The most publicized CT-related overdoses occurred between 2008 and 2010, when several hospitals in California and one in Alabama seriously over-radiated more than 400 patients. The problem was discovered after patients reported losing their hair. Since then, new technology has been created to alert technologists if the dose is too high—and new federal legislation is in the works that would require radiology centers to adopt modern imaging equipment standards by 2016.

Still, the more common problem is that too many scans are being done in the first place, particularly in the ER, where doctors sometimes order CTs before they’ve fully evaluated a patient, Dr. Smith-Bindman says. But doctors in general have come to rely heavily on these tests. One reason: Many MDs today have a lower tolerance for ambiguity than ever before and have learned to trust images to give them definitive answers, even when other methods, including a risk-free physical exam, can provide the information needed.

In addition, physicians in private practice may feel financial pressure to recoup the cost of expensive equipment. “Research has found that if a neurologist, say, owns a CT scanner, the percentage of patients getting scans is higher than what’s typically done in a radiology clinic and much higher than in similar doctors’ practices without scanners,” Morin says. Add to the mix the possibility of being sued over a misdiagnosis, and you have a recipe for overuse.

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Making scans safer

Avoiding unnecessary medical radiation starts with speaking up and being your own best advocate (see 5 Questions to Ask Before You Have That Scan, page 117). At the same time, multiple industry efforts are under way to lower exposures from CTs. One initiative, Choosing Wisely (choosingwisely.org), helps doctors and patients understand which procedures and tests—including imaging tests—are unnecessary or commonly overused. Radiologists are leading the charge to make scans safer: Image Wisely, a program created by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Radiological Society of North America, is focused on optimizing the amount of radiation used in imaging studies and eliminating inessential CTs and other scans. The ACR has also created the Dose Index Registry in an effort to compare dosage information across facilities. About a third of the 3,000 or so scanning facilities in the U.S. are members, which means they get updates on the dosages other centers are using for similar tests, explains Morin, who was the founding chair of the registry. (For more on finding the best place to get a scan, go to health.com/safe-scan.)

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Meanwhile, companies that manufacture scanners are developing new technology to lower the radiation doses. “They’ve fine-tuned the equipment so you can produce high-quality images with lower doses,” Morin says. Even so, when you need to get a CT scan, it’s always a good idea to ask if they can scan using the lowest dose possible, Dr. Smith-Bindman says. If you’re smaller or thinner, technicians can often get a clear image at a lower dose. (The bigger your body, the more radiation you require, since fat absorbs some of the beams.) Avoid unnecessary radiation from even low-level sources, like dental X-rays, which you probably don’t need every year unless you have ongoing problems with tooth decay.

The idea is not to refuse all medical radiation but to do your best to discriminate between what’s essential and what’s not. “I always tell my friends to say to their doctors who recommend CTs, ‘I’m happy to have the test, but I’d like you to help me understand why I really need it,’” Dr. Smith-Bindman says. “Medicine often doesn’t change until patients start asking questions. And when it comes to medical radiation, it’s time to start asking.”

5 Questions to ask before you have that scan
“When a doctor prescribes a medication, she always talks about the risks and benefits,” says Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD. “Now we need to start having that same kind of discussion about medical imaging.” In addition to the obvious “Why do I need this test?” ask these key questions—especially if your doc suggests a CT scan.

1. “Will the outcome of the test change the treatment I’m likely to receive?” If the answer is no, the test may not be necessary, Dr. Smith-Bindman points out.

2. “Are there alternatives without radiation, like ultrasound or MRI?” In some cases, such as many abdominal CT scans, other scans work as well or better, Dr. Smith-Bindman says.

3. If you’ve just had a scan at another facility, ask, “Is there a reason to repeat the scan I just had?” Notes John Boice, ScD: “It doesn’t make sense to do tests twice, yet it does happen.”

4. If a CT scan is crucial, ask, “Is there a way to minimize the dose?” Doctors may be able to use a lower-dose technique, particularly if you’re petite.

5. After a CT scan, ask, “How much radiation was I exposed to?” Write it down so you have a record.

You probably don’t need a CT for… Question your doc if she recommends a CT for these health problems.

Concussion: Concussions can be diagnosed by symptoms alone. But it’s valid to do a CT if the doctor suspects a skull fracture or brain bleed, says Robert Cantu, MD, clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine.

Sinus infection: This everyday health problem can generally be diagnosed through symptoms and a physical exam, says the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

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Headache: If you do need a scan, MRI is the test of choice, unless a doctor suspects a stroke or brain hemorrhage, according to the American Headache Society.

Appendicitis in children: It’s best to use ultrasound first, then follow up with a CT if the ultrasound is inconclusive, according to the American College of Radiology.

Back pain: Most cases improve on their own within a month, so it doesn’t make sense to expose yourself to unnecessary radiation. If the pain continues, ask your doctor about an MRI.

How much radiation you get from…
Airport backscatter scan: .0001 mSv
Bone-density scan: 0.001 mSv
Dental posterior bite-wing X-ray series (two to four images): 0.005 to 0.055 mSv*
Two days in Denver: 0.006 mSv
Panoramic dental X-rays (standard single image): 0.009 to 0.024 mSv*
Cross-country flight: 0.04 mSv
Single chest X-ray: 0.1 mSv
Digital mammogram: 0.4 mSv
Average yearly dose from the sun and other environmental sources: 3 mSv
Chest CT: 7 mSv
Virtual (CT) colonoscopy: 10 mSv

PET/CT (often used to diagnose cancer): 25 mSv

Smoking a pack a day for a year: 53 mSv

*Dose can vary based on the type of machine used.

Your anti-radiation diet
Antioxidants from food can sop up the free radicals that cause DNA damage. And some research has hinted that what you eat may shield your body from radiation’s harmful effects. A 2009 study of airline pilots, who tend to be exposed to elevated levels of ionizing radiation, found that those with diets highest in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin (found in pumpkin, papaya and red peppers) and lutein-zeaxanthin (in leafy greens, egg yolks and squash) had fewer biomarkers of cumulative DNA damage.

Researchers in Toronto have recently shown that taking antioxidants before a scan can reduce the number of DNA breaks caused by the radiation. Published results are expected within the next six months. Says researcher Kieran Murphy, MD, professor of radiology at the University Health Network Toronto: “In light of what we’ve found, making sure you have a diet rich in antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables could be beneficial.”

This post originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

8 Awesome Whole Grains You’re Not Eating

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Plus easy, delicious ways to get more of them in your meals

You’ve probably had oatmeal for breakfast, and if you haven’t yet tried quinoa I bet you’ve heard of it, or have seen it on a menu or social media recipe (it’s all over Pinterest!). But there are many other whole grains you may not be familiar with, and incorporating them into your food repertoire is well worth the learning curve.

Whole grains are white hot among chefs and nutritionists. They’re versatile, satisfying, and in addition to providing slow-burning starch (think sustained energy!), vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, whole grains are health protective. Their consumption is tied to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity (yes, a lower risk of obesity).

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Here are eight to try, plus easy, delicious ways to incorporate them into meals and snacks. (And for those with Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, the first 6 are gluten free.)

Black rice

Black rice is popping up on menus all over the place, in items from sushi to meatloaf. The natural pigment that gives black rice its hue is due to a unique antioxidant tied to protection against heart disease, cancer, and obesity. This is why compared to brown rice, black rice packs more potent anti-inflammatory properties, as well as higher levels of protein, iron, and fiber. While I’ve made black rice at home, my local Thai restaurant offers it as a side, and I’ll use the leftovers in a variety of ways, including as the base for a hot cereal (made with unsweetened coconut milk, fruit, nuts, and ginger), chilled and sprinkled onto in a garden salad, or folded into veggie chili.

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Kaniwa

This quinoa cousin is similar nutritionally speaking—high in protein, minerals, and antioxidants—but it’s about half the size, so it cooks quickly (about 15 minutes). Like quinoa it’s incredibly versatile. You can whip cooked, chilled kaniwa into a smoothie, fold it into yogurt with fruit, nuts, and cinnamon, add it to a garden salad, or use it in place of bulgur in tabbouleh. Hot kaniwa can be stuffed into peppers, added to a stew, or used any way you’d enjoy quinoa—in burgers, lettuce wraps, frittatas, you name it!

Sorghum

Sorghum, also called milo, originated in Egypt thousands of years ago, and is a staple in Africa. In addition to being nutrient rich, this gluten-free grain is digested and absorbed slowly, so it has a “stick to your ribs” quality that keeps you fuller longer, delays the return of hunger, and helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. Sorghum can be used in countless recipes, from smoothies to savory hot or cold veggie salads, but my favorite way to prepare it is to pop it, just like popcorn!

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Teff

This African whole grain is probably best known as the key ingredient in spongy Ethiopian flatbread. Known for its sweet, molasses-like flavor and versatility, teff can be cooked as an oatmeal alternative, added to baked goods, or made into polenta in place of corn. Teff packs about three times the calcium as other whole grains—over 120mg per cup cooked—and it provides resistant starch, a unique kind of carbohydrate that’s been shown to naturally up your body’s fat-burning furnace. Teff can be incorporated into homemade energy bars, pie crust, cookies, or used in savory meals, such as a teff lentil loaf, or as a coating for lean proteins like fish.

Buckwheat

While wheat is in the name, buckwheat isn’t related to wheat at all. In fact, it’s thought of as a whole grain due to its nutritional properties, but it’s technically a cousin of rhubarb, and is naturally gluten free. You may have tried buckwheat pancakes, but one of my favorite forms of buckwheat is soba noodles. I coat them with a quick sauce I make from almond butter thinned with warm water and brown rice vinegar, fresh grated ginger, minced garlic, and crushed red pepper, tossed with lots of veggies, topped with a lean protein. You can also enjoy buckwheat as a breakfast porridge, or use buckwheat flour for making anything from crepes to cookies.

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Millet

A staple in India, this tiny oval whole grain contains antioxidants in addition to key minerals including copper, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. Like many of the grains listed here, millet can be served chilled or hot, or used in baking. I also love puffed millet as a cold cereal base, and I fold it into nut butter, along with chopped dark chocolate, minced dried fruit, and spices, to make crunchy millet balls as an alternative to crispy rice treats.

Rye (not gluten free)

Aside from rye bread, which is often a mixture of refined wheat and rye, there are many ways to enjoy 100% whole rye grain. Rye flour can be used for baking, rye flakes can be swapped for rolled oats, and rye berries can be used in place of rice. Recent research has shown that rye is more satiating compared to wheat, and in one animal study mice fed whole-grain rye versus wheat shed more weight, and experienced slightly better improvements in cholesterol levels and insulin regulation. When shopping for packaged rye products, be sure to read the ingredients. In most mainstream supermarkets you can find 100% whole rye crackers, made simply from whole-grain rye flour, water, and salt. They’re an easy way to fit in a whole grain serving, and delicious spread with a little ripe avocado, hummus, olive tapenade, or pesto.

Barley (not gluten free)

You may have had barley in soup, but there are many other ways to enjoy this hearty whole grain. One of the oldest cultivated grains, barley has been found in Egyptian pyramids, and was consumed by ancient Greeks for medicinal purposes. Natural substances in barley have been shown to help reduce cholesterol even more than oats, and feed the “good” bacteria in your gut, which improve digestive health, immunity, and weight control. Barley is also the highest fiber whole grain, another boon for weight control, since fiber helps boost satiety and curbs calorie absorption. Try it as a hot breakfast cereal, in a chilled vegetable and bean dish, or as a rice alternative in pilaf.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

13 Healthy Frozen Dinners

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We tested dozens to find the ones you'll actually want to eat again

The freezer aisle has come a long way in the 60 years since the first TV dinners entered the scene. Instead of Salisbury steak and sad, rubbery peas, today’s microwavable meals are likely to include kale and organic chicken. “The quality and variety are so much better than they were just a few years ago,” says Libby Mills, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “More people are demanding food that is both healthy and environmentally sound, and companies are responding.” In fact, organic and “natural” ready-to-eat meals are projected to become a $2.2 billion business in the U.S. by 2017. But what good is nutritional cred if the offerings taste like airplane food? No worries: We tested dozens to pinpoint the ones you’ll actually want to eat again and again.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Foods That Control Your Appetite

Evol Fire Grilled Steak

Power ingredients: Steak, black beans, cilantro-lime rice, roasted red and green bell peppers and Cheddar cheese with a cilantro-lime pesto
Tester’s take: “Yum! It was just like a takeout burrito bowl but has only 400 calories.”
Key nutritionals: 400 Calories, 3.5g Saturated Fat, 20g Protein, 9g Fiber, 520mg Sodium
($99/12 pack; amazon.com)

Luvo Chicken Chile Verde

Power ingredients: Chicken, polenta and black beans in a punched-up green chile sauce
Tester’s take: “The chicken somehow tasted freshly cooked, and the black beans had a nice al dente quality. The only downside was that it could use something green. Next time, I’ll steam some spinach to serve on the side.”
Key nutritionals: 320 Calories, 4.5g Saturated Fat, 27g Protein, 6g Fiber, 470mg Sodium
($58/10 pack; amazon.com)

HEALTH.COM: Best and Worst Foods to Avoid Bloating

Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake

Power ingredients: Plantains, black beans, sweet potato, kale, Kashi 7 Whole Grains & Sesame Pilaf, amaranth and polenta in a spicy ancho sauce
Tester’s take: “The sweet plantains in the sauce had a nice oomph to them. And the pilaf added a satisfying texture to the meal.”
Key nutritionals: 340 Calories, 2g Saturated Fat, 9g Protein, 8g Fiber, 380mg Sodium
(For stores visit kashi.com)

Saffron Road Chicken Biryani

Power ingredients: Chicken, basmati rice and caramelized onions in Biryani spices
Tester’s take: “It tasted so fresh that I couldn’t believe it came out of a box.”
Key nutritionals: 400 Calories, 2g Saturated Fat, 25g Protein, 3g Fiber, 590mg Sodium
($51/8-pack; amazon.com)

Saffron Road Chana Saag

Power ingredients: Chickpeas and spinach seasoned with ginger and traditional Indian herbs and spices over cumin rice
Tester’s take: “This meal smelled, looked and tasted as if it had come straight out of the kitchen of an Indian restaurant. And it was filling to boot.”
Key nutritionals: 420 Calories, 1.5g Saturated Fat, 12g Protein, 8g Fiber, 590mg Sodium
($45/8-pack; amazon.com)

HEALTH.COM: 16 Calorie-Free Flavor Boosters

Lean Cuisine Spa Collection Sesame Stir Fry with Chicken

Power ingredients: Chicken, edamame, broccoli and whole-wheat vermicelli in a sesame sauce
Tester’s take: “Overall, it was fresh and satisfying.”
Key nutritionals: 280 Calories, 1g Saturated Fat, 19g Protein, 5mg Fiber, 480mg Sodium
(Available in select Walmart stores)

Cedar Lane Eggplant Parmesan

Power ingredients: Eggplant filled with roasted vegetables and cheese in a sun-dried-tomato sauce
Tester’s take: “Surprisingly delicious! The eggplant was satisfying, and the sauce was creamy but not at all heavy.”
Key nutritionals: 280 Calories, 5g Saturated Fat, 13g Protein, 5g Fiber, 590mg Sodium
($5; amazon.com)

Luvo Spinach Ricotta Ravioli

Power ingredients: Ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta in a turkey Bolognese sauce
Tester’s take: “This one is a win-win: filling and low-calorie. The turkey Bolognese was nicely seasoned and hearty. The ravioli weren’t bad either! I’d say this meal was actually restaurant-good.”
Key nutritionals: 310 Calories, 2g Saturated Fat, 18 Protein, 4g Fiber, 470mg Sodium
(For stores visit luvoinc.com)

Blake’s Meatloaf Dinner Casserole

Power ingredents: Meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes, peas and gravy
Tester’s take: “The flavors simmered together so nicely. It was hearty but not a ton of food, so I added a side salad.”
Key nutritionals: 310 Calories, 9g Saturated Fat, 11g Protein, 3g Fiber, 350mg Sodium
(Available in select Target stores)

Artisan Bistro Grass-Red Beef in Mushroom Sauce

Power ingredients: Beef and French lentils with a mushroom sauce, edamame, sugar snap peas, sweet potatoes and onions
Tester’s take: “A high-quality meat-and-potatoes dish, it’s perfect for when you walk through the door feeling famished.”
Key nutritionals: 350 Calories, 3.5g Saturated Fat, 23g Protein, 4g Fiber, 580mg Sodium
(Available in select Whole Foods stores)

Luvo Orange Mango Chicken

Power ingredients: Roasted white-meat chicken and mango chunks in a sweet orange sauce with rice, kale and broccoli
Tester’s take: “You might want to season the veggies, but the chicken and mango smothered in a tasty sauce made this meal.”
Key nutritionals: 420 Calories, 1g Saturated Fat, 21g Protein, 4g Fiber, 380mg Sodium
($58/8-pack; amazon.com)

HEALTH.COM: 12 ‘Unhealthy’ Foods Nutritionists Eat

Artisan Bistro Wild Salmon with Pesto

Power ingredients: Wild Alaskan salmon in a basil pesto with chickpea pilaf, zucchini and green beans
Tester’s take: “Reheating frozen seafood in the microwave is tricky, but this worked. It helped that the fish was drizzled with a yummy pesto sauce!”
Key nutritionals: 310 Calories, 2.5g Saturated Fat, 16g Protein, 3g Fiber, 370mg Sodium
(Available in select Whole Foods stores)

Kashi Steam Meal Chicken Chipotle BBQ

Power ingredients: Chicken, green beans, mango, bell peppers and onions in a whole-grain pilaf
Tester’s take: “These steam meals are brilliant. Everything cooked right in the bag and stayed super crisp in the process. On top of that, the sauce had a smoky, spicy flavor that hit all the right notes.”
Key nutritionals: 310 Calories, 1g Saturated Fat, 15g Protein, 6g Fiber, 620mg Sodium
(For stores visit kashi.com)

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Research

7 DIY Health Cures Anyone Can Do

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Home remedies for minor maladies

Somehow the most nonthreatening body problems almost always turn out to be the most frustrating. Sure, your cramps, stress headaches or yeast infections aren’t going to kill you, but man, what a hassle! Wouldn’t it be nice to solve them yourself, once and for all? Well, you can, with the right know-how: “Conventional medicine has a solid track record for serious issues, but natural cures can be a great way to ease those day-to-day annoyances,” says Mao Shing Ni (known as Dr. Mao), PhD, a doctor of Chinese medicine and author of Secrets of Longevity Cookbook. “Plus, in many cases, the risk of adverse reactions is much lower, and the ingredients may already be in your home.” Next time one of the following minor maladies messes with your life, look to some alternative remedies, along with dietary tweaks that can make all the difference.

HEALTH.COM: 21 Natural Headache Cures

You’ve got: A stress headache
What causes it: When you get really frazzled, the muscles in your head and neck tend to tense up, which constricts blood flow and can bring on the distinct throb of a stress headache. It’s generally felt all over, like a dull but distracting ache, versus a migraine’s one-sided pounding.

Eat this: Foods containing magnesium, such as spinach, nuts, Swiss chard and beans. “I call magnesium the relaxation mineral,” says Mark Hyman, MD, a functional-medicine specialist and author of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. “It pulls calcium out of muscle cells, which helps the muscle relax.” Running low on magnesium (which most of us are, Dr. Hyman says) can lead to constantly tense muscles because the calcium is locked in. It’s best to eat your magnesium, but supplements are an option. Women 30 and under need 310 milligrams daily. Over 30? Go for 320mg. In the meantime, avoid refined sugar, which can cause big spikes and crashes in blood sugar—a recipe for a skull throbber. Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit.

Do this: Put your thumb on the back of your neck at the base of your skull, and look up so you’re creating firm, steady pressure. “There’s an acupressure point here that’s connected to the muscles that tend to tense up,” Dr. Mao explains. “While you’re pressing into it, breathe in as you count to five, then breathe out, counting to 10.” Perform this breathing exercise while holding the point for five minutes and the pain should dissipate. And “if possible, take a 15-minute break from the stressful environment that led to the headache and go somewhere dark and quiet to relax,” adds Draion M. Burch, DO, an ob-gyn at the University of Pittsburgh Magee-Womens Hospital. “Take deep breaths or turn on soothing music. When you relax, your muscles will too.”

You’ve got: A recurring yeast infection
What causes it: While pretty much every woman can count on experiencing the redness, intense itching and thick, white discharge of a vaginal yeast infection at some point, the worst is one that just keeps coming back, striking at least four times a year. If you’ve tried over-the-counter creams or prescription antifungals and you’re still itching, that’s a sign you may have a resistant strain of candida, the fungus that causes yeast infections.

Eat this: A daily 6- to 8-ounce container of plain yogurt (if you’re lactose intolerant, soy or coconut yogurt works). Make sure it contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, a probiotic (good bacteria) that helps create an unfriendly environment in the vagina so yeast doesn’t grow out of control, Burch says. It’s very important to check that the yogurt has no added sugar, since yeast thrives on the sweet stuff, Burch adds. Other healthy whole foods, like lean proteins, leafy and cruciferous greens and healthy fats, along with garlic and coconut oil, also have anti-yeast properties, Dr. Hyman says.

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Do this: Try a vaginal suppository with boric acid powder. Yep, you know boric acid as a bug killer, but hear us out. “Ob-gyns used to prescribe boric acid to women all the time before over-the-counter creams and the one-day prescription pill appeared,” explains Tieraona Low Dog, MD, a specialist in natural remedies and author of Healthy at Home. “It’s effective against the less common species of the fungus, which don’t always respond to conventional treatment.” If you want to try it, “you can buy boric acid powder, not crystals, in any pharmacy, then place it in size 0 or 00 capsules, sold at drugstores, and insert one into the vagina each night for a week,” Dr. Low Dog says. Don’t take the capsules by mouth (they’re toxic if ingested), and don’t use them at all if you’re pregnant.

And FYI: Chronic yeast infections can be an early sign of diabetes. See your doc if you have symptoms such as frequent urination.

You’ve got: A runny nose
What causes it: When a cold virus or allergen invades your nasal passages, your body releases chemicals called histamines that increase mucus production and cause other symptoms, like itchy eyes or sneezing.

Eat this: Fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso or sauerkraut. They contain probiotics that can help boost immunity so you’re armed against colds and flu. If you’re already congested, you might want to avoid dairy products (they can make symptoms more noticeable) and sweets, which can crank up mucus production. Sometimes a runny nose is a reaction to a food allergen, like dairy or gluten (a protein in wheat rye and barley). “If your symptoms persist, consider being tested,” Dr. Mao says.

Do this: Disinfect a small squirt bottle by dipping it in boiling water. Then, after the water has bubbled for at least a minute, let it cool and add it to the bottle with 1 or 2 teaspoons of table salt. Shoot a tiny amount into your nasal passage before blowing it out gently, Dr. Mao suggests. (Sounds unpleasant, but we promise it’s not bad.) Besides rinsing out allergens and other germs, salt water is a natural antimicrobial that helps fight the bacteria and viruses that caused the cold in the first place. It can also dry up excess mucus. Don’t have a squirt bottle? A neti pot will work the same way, or you can try a premade salt spray like Simply Saline. Both are available in drugstores.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

You’ve got: Constipation
What causes it: Often it’s a change in your routine—you go on a big trip or have a superbusy few weeks that keep you out of the gym—that disrupts your regular bowel habits, making you feel backed up and bloated. And the longer things remain standing still, the worse constipation can get.

Eat this: Down an 8-ounce glass of unfiltered aloe vera juice with 2 ounces of unfiltered apple juice. “Apple juice has pectin, which is fibrous, and the aloe vera speeds digestion,” Dr. Mao says. Another option: a tablespoon of hemp seed oil or flaxseed oil before bed, which lubricates the digestive tract, he says. If you’re often constipated, it might be a good idea to consider a daily regimen: Take 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds every morning (you can add them to your yogurt or mix them into green juice), pop 150 to 300mg of magnesium citrate in capsule form at breakfast and lunch and drink at least eight glasses of water throughout the day. “Flaxseed is an excellent source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for reducing gut inflammation; water helps move things through,” Dr. Hyman says. “Magnesium citrate helps relax the bowels so you can go.”

Do this: “Lie flat and massage your lower abdomen with your fingertips in short up-and-down motions for a few minutes every hour to help get things moving,” Burch says. Afterward, walk around for a few minutes and have a full glass of water.

Are you chronically stopped up? See your doc for a thyroid check; a sluggish thyroid gland can cause constipation as well as other health issues, like weight gain and fatigue, Dr. Hyman adds.

You’ve got: Menstrual cramps
What causes them: When it’s time for your period, your body ramps up production of prostaglandins, hormone-like chemicals that help expel the uterine lining by causing contractions—and, unfortunately, triggering inflammation and those familiar pains in your belly. Over-the-counter pain meds are the usual go-to, but if you take them too often, they can lead to side effects such as upset stomach and diarrhea.

Eat this: Ginger is an antispasmodic that helps block prostaglandins. Sip ginger tea (you can buy tea bags or steep grated fresh ginger root) at the first twinge of cramps so you stop them before they get really intense, Dr. Low Dog says. Foods with omega-3s, like walnuts, pumpkin seeds and fatty fish (salmon, sardines) can also help reduce cramps over time. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory powers that help slow prostaglandin production. “Up your consumption of cold-water fish to 3 to 4 ounces twice a week, or take a daily fish oil supplement that offers 500 to 800mg of EPA or 200 to 500mg of DHA. You’ll see improvement in your cramps in three months,” Dr. Low Dog says.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Things That Mess With Your Period

Do this: Massage a pressure point at the end of your spine (about 2 inches above your butt). “The nerves here connect to the uterus, so applying constant pressure to this spot with your palm or fingertip relaxes the uterine muscles,” Burch says. You can reach back and do it yourself or ask your partner to help.

You’ve got: Canker sores
What causes them: These shallow, painful sores tend to strike because of some kind of irritation, like after you’ve bitten your tongue. They also appear when you’re stressed. Most of the time the exact cause is unclear, but they’re unrelated to cold sores (which are brought on by a virus).

Eat this: Yogurt. Swishing a spoonful of the plain, sugar-free kind along your gums helps rebalance the microbes in your mouth so it’s a less favorable place for the harmful germs that can irritate the sore and make it worse, Dr. Low Dog says. Skip spicy or acidic foods, such as citrus or sodas, which can exacerbate an existing canker sore and may even cause new ones to form, Dr. Mao explains.

Do this: Gargle with a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water three times a day and right before bed. Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that can kill those bacteria, Dr. Mao says. “If the sore is already irritated, coat it with baking powder before bed, which helps it close up faster.” Canker sores can also be a sign of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, Dr. Mao notes, so consider being tested if you get them frequently or if you have symptoms such as abdominal pain.

You’ve got: Itchy winter skin
What causes it: Your skin just can’t win in the colder months. Both the heated indoor air and the dry, chilly air outside mean you’re facing dehydrated, flaky skin no matter what. And it’s hard to resist scratching it—which only contributes to the irritation.

Eat this: Foods high in B vitamins, such as poultry, meat and whole grains. “B vitamins, especially niacin (or B[subscript 3], found in poultry, meat and fish), help open capillaries near the skin’s surface, improving delivery of blood and boosting skin health,” Dr. Mao says. Avoid refined sugar: “Sugary, processed foods worsen skin issues because they immediately raise blood sugar levels, triggering an insulin response that leads to puffiness, itching and dryness,” Dr. Hyman says.

HEALTH.COM: Winter Skin Annoyances, Solved

Do this: Moisturize skin with natural nut or vegetable oils, available at supermarkets and organic food stores. “Walnut, coconut, hemp seed and avocado oils are high in specific amino acids that help your skin rehydrate,” Dr. Mao says. (One quick note of caution: If you or someone in your family has a tree nut allergy, skip oils made with those; there is a potential for a reaction when used on skin, Dr. Mao adds.) You can apply it directly to skin as needed. Or, for a hydrating treat, replace your nightly shower with a relaxing bath. Add 2 tablespoons of your favorite oil to the warm water and climb in. Afterward your flaky skin (and your stress) will be gone for sure.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

The Most Surprising Tool for Transforming Your Body

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Mindset is the greatest fitness motivator

Want to know one of the best workout secrets I’ve learned? Attitude is everything. You’re either mentally in the game or you may as well be sitting on the sidelines. Not only does your attitude help motivate you, it’s the only tool that guarantees lasting results.

Ask any professional athlete: So much of their training is mental preparation. If pro athletes are not mentally pumped and focused on winning, they’re almost guaranteed to lose. But for those of us who aren’t pro athletes, no amount of encouragement from a trainer—or even an upcoming high school reunion—will help you achieve long-lasting results. But your attitude can.

Attitude, along with a motto, helps maintain a focus that is everlasting. It’s a simple theme that translates from pro sports to even the simplest children’s book. For example, in The Little Engine That Could, a long train gets stuck up a mountain only to be rescued by a much smaller engine who continuously repeats, “I think I can, I think I can.” Yes, the train was small, but mental prowess saved the day.

Here are 6 ways to improve your attitude and help you get in shape and stay there.

Get a motto and use it

Mindset is a powerful tool that can motivate and encourage big changes, along with lasting results. With the aid of a motivating motto, that little train did something none of the larger engines could achieve. The power of words can drive a person to completely change herself.

HEALTH.COM: 24 Motivational Weight Loss and Fitness Quotes

Value your mistakes

Altering your outlook will guarantee results if you stick with it. And if you get derailed from your goals of eating healthy and regularly working out (like many of us do), shrug it off and learn from your mistakes. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer a close friend. You’re human, cut yourself some slack—no one is perfect. If you happen to skip a workout or end up eating more pizza than you planned, dust yourself off and start fresh. Tomorrow is a new day.

Celebrate your victories

Remember that it’s important to set realistic goals when beginning a new workout regime. Celebrate the minor triumphs; one day they will become big ones. In my book, Strong Is The New Skinny, I encourage people to start a brag box where you can stash mementos and reminders of your greatest accomplishments (i.e. your first 5K race number). Your very own personalized brag box will be your greatest asset on days when you’re feeling unmotivated or like you’ve fallen off the wagon.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Ways to Stick to Your Workout Routine

Invest in yourself

No one will take care of you like you. So take care of yourself. Imagine the best version of yourself: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Keep that image alive in your mind as you continue to pursue your fitness goals.

Update your strategy

Just because you think of yourself as Xena, Princess Warrior once, won’t mean that every time you look in the mirror, you’ll see a powerful warrior glancing back. Sometimes you need to shake things up and re-strategize. Back in 2013, shortly after having a baby, I received a great opportunity to create and appear in a new Weight Watchers fitness DVD series–an experience I could not pass up. The only problem was I had just had a baby five months prior. I needed to motivate and fast! What did I do? I instantly took action. Besides eating wholesome foods, I changed my outlook, confident I could achieve my goal. The idea is to fake it till you make it, genuinely feeling strong and powerful until you ultimately get there.

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Visualize the new you

Take a minute and imagine how you’d look, move, and feel if you already had the strong, fit body you’ve always wanted. Stand tall, walk, run, or dance with assurance. Adopting a posture that suggests confidence can literally change our feelings, our behavior, and even our hormone levels, according to the research of Harvard Business School social psychologist, Amy Cuddy.

Not only did I improve my posture, but I also posted pre-baby photos all around my house in an effort to motivate myself back into shape. Everywhere I looked, I had visual reminders reaffirming that I, just like the Little Engine that could, was going to make it.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Ways to Make Yourself Work Out When You Don’t Want To

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Schedule a weekly class, run, walk, hike, or tennis match with your friend, partner, or family member

As the days start to get shorter and the temperatures drop, you may be tempted to slack off on your workout routine. After all, it’s also no longer swimsuit season and we can hide under cozy layers! But it’s so important to keep moving and find something you not only love to do but also can do all year round.

For instance, during the spring and summer, I love to run, bike, swim, play tennis, chase my little guy all over the playground and hike with him in his baby carrier. But as winter approaches, I can fall back on my yoga practice, Pilates workouts, bundled walks, strength training, and skiing. Though, there are still some mornings when I would much rather snuggle in bed.

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Here are some motivational tricks to help you break a sweat because you’ll definitely feel better after working out—and have the body to show for it winter, spring, summer, and fall.

1. Drink a cup of joe

Coffee is an ergogenic aid and can stimulate you to work out and help you last longer during your workout. Also, if you tell yourself, ‘I’m going to have a cup of coffee then lift weights’ you’ll have something set in your head. Try to keep this trick for you AM or midday workouts not later in the evening, though.

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2. Plan your reward

Promise yourself you can only view the latest episode of “Scandal” or “New Girl” after you log a workout. Or if you’re not a TV watcher, give yourself some sort of reward for working out. I tell myself once I do my yoga practice, then I can surf the web for cute clothes for my baby boy.

3. Make a date

Schedule a weekly class, run, walk, hike, or tennis match with your friend, partner, or family member. I’m part of an Upper West Side Moms stroller walk and talk meet-up group in New York City. I get so much out of meeting other moms and spending an hour working out with them while still being with my son. Find something you can do—even if it’s joining a bowling league—that meets weekly and gets you excited to move.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Ways to Make Exercise a Habit That Lasts

4. Listen to your playlist

It’s like Pavlov’s dog: if you have a great playlist to work out to, once you play it, chances are you’ll get in the mood to break a sweat. Any upbeat music can get you in the mood to move your body. Just turn on Pandora or your favorite artist and dance around your living room or put on your headphones and go outside or to the gym to run.

5. Buy yourself new workout clothes

When I get a new yoga tank or an awesome pair of workout pants, I want to use them! I update my wardrobe each season with clothes that work for the whether. Invest in some fun long sleeve workout tops, get a long pair of running pants that will block the wind, find layers you love, and dress for success. I loved back-to-school shopping as s little girl and couldn’t wait to wear each outfit every day. I channel that same enthusiasm and excitement in to my workout wardrobe and plan some fun, new workout classes to take.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

6 Ways You’re Using Olive Oil Wrong

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A slightly bitter taste can indicate the presence of antioxidants

Everyone knows olive oil is great for your health and a staple of the Mediterranean diet. But even though it’s now found in most kitchens, it’s still steeped in mystery and confusion. Read on for some of the biggest mistakes people make with olive oil, and how to use it correctly.

1. You buy the “light” version to save calories

All olive oils have roughly the same amount of calories and fat (about 120 calories and 14g fat per tablespoon). “Light” refers to the color and flavor of this oil, which is highly refined to make it more neutral than other types of olive oil.

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2. You’re afraid to cook with the extra-virgin stuff.

It’s true that extra virgin olive oil has a lower smoke point than other types of olive oil and some other fats—that is, the temperature where oil begins to smoke and impart an unpleasant odor and flavor (peanut oil is 450ºF and grapeseed is 445ºF, for example. For more, check out this chart on Serious Eats). Extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point around 410ºF, according to The Science of Good Food, so it’s perfectly safe for sautéing at medium temperatures. Extra virgin is the purest form of olive oil, and contains the most health supportive oleic acid so there’s no need to use it only for salad dressing.

3. You toss any that tastes slightly bitter.

Don’t toss that oil just yet: it may not have gone bad. A slightly bitter taste can indicate the presence of antioxidants, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis, Olive Center. With a fresh extra virgin olive oil, you should taste, well, olives, and also some grassy or fruity notes.

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4. You keep it right next to the stove.

Nothing will make your olive oil go rancid quicker than heat and light. Look for olive oil in a dark-colored glass or tin container, and store it in a cool spot, away from sunlight.

5. You stock up when you see a great deal.

Unless you’ll use it all quickly, it’s better to buy olive oil in smaller quantities. Ideally you want to use it up within about 6 weeks.

6. You use the “fridge test” to see if yours is high quality.

Sorry, but no. After a 2013 episode of the Dr. Oz Show, in which he claimed you can test to see how pure your olive oil is by refrigerating it (if it solidifies in the fridge, it’s pure), UC Davis researchers put the fridge test to the test, and it flunked. That is, if an olive oil turns to a solid at lower temperatures, it doesn’t mean it’s of higher quality.

The best way to ensure your oil is good quality? Look for seals on the bottle from the USDA Quality Monitoring Program, the North American Olive Oil Association, the California Olive Oil Council, or the Extra Virgin Alliance.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The 5 Biggest Salad Mistakes You’re Making

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The best ways to build a balanced bowl

I eat some type of salad nearly every day. It’s a go-to staple I really look forward to, and I love mixing it up. Some days I toss greens with pico de gallo, black beans, and guacamole, others involve grilled veggies, quinoa, and almonds, or roasted chickpeas and olive tapenade.

I enjoy creating new combinations, and to do so without throwing my meal off balance, I use a mix-and-match philosophy: I start with a greens and veggie base, add a lean protein, choose a good-for-you fat, include a small portion of healthy starch, season, and commence crunching.

When I talk to my clients about how they build salads, I often find that they’re doubling up in some areas, and missing out in others; and those imbalances can either prevent a salad from being slimming, or lead to missing out on key nutrients. Here are some common salad-building blunders, and the best ways to build a balanced bowl.

Too little or too much protein

In my clients’ food journals I’ve seen plenty of salads with lots of veggies but no protein, and others with protein overload, like chicken plus cheese and hardboiled eggs. Protein is an essential salad component for several reasons—it boosts satiety, revs metabolism, and provides the raw materials for maintaining or building lean tissue, including both muscle as well as hormones, healthy hair, skin, and immune cells. But excess protein, beyond what your body needs, can prevent weight loss or lead to weight gain. In short, your body requires a certain amount of protein for maintenance and healing. When too little is delivered those jobs don’t get done. But when your body has more than it needs, it has no choice but to send the surplus straight to your fat cells. For balance, choose a half cup of a plant-based protein, like lentils or beans, or 3 ounces of lean meat or seafood (that’s about the size of a smartphone). If you choose dairy, stick with ½ cup of organic cottage cheese, or one whole hardboiled organic egg and three whites. If you like to include more than one type, reduce the portions of each.

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Not enough veggie variety

Greens and veggies are the typical salad base, but if you’re keeping your selections narrow (e.g. just spinach or romaine) you’re missing out on important veggie benefits. One Colorado State University also found that over a two-week period, volunteers who downed a broader array of the exact same amount of produce (18 botanical families instead of 5) experienced significantly less oxidation, a marker for premature aging and disease. Another study, which evaluated more than 450,000 people and looked at their consumption of commonly eaten veggies found that regardless of quantity, the risk of lung cancer decreased when a wider variety of veggies were consumed. This may be because each plant contains unique types of antioxidants, nutrients, and natural cancer fighters, so a wider variety exposes your body to a broader spectrum of protection. To reap the benefits aim for at least two cups of veggies total, with lots of different colors, such as field greens, red tomatoes, purple cabbage, orange bell peppers, white onion… and keep changing up the variety.

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Too little or too much fat

Like protein, fat serves as one of the body’s building blocks. Fat is a major structural component of your cell membranes, brain, hormones, and skin. Healthy fats also reduce inflammation, boost satiety (so you feel fuller longer), and significantly up the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants, which hitch a ride with fat to get transported from your digestive system into your bloodstream. A few years back, researchers at Iowa State looked at the absorption of key antioxidants when men and women ate salads with fat-free, low-fat, and full fat salad dressings. They found that those who ate the fat-free dressing absorbed almost no antioxidants at all. The reduced-fat version upped the absorption, but not as much as the full fat dressing. Important info! But in your salad, dressing isn’t the only healthy way to include fat. Sometimes I crave a simple vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, and dried Italian herbs. But I’ll often skip the oil to make room for sliced avocado or chopped nuts. Or I’ll toss my greens and veggies with olive tapenade, or add oven roasted, grilled, or sauteed veggies that already have olive oil in the mix. Include some fat for sure—just choose wisely, and be mindful of your portions to prevent going overboard.

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Skipping starch

Without any starch in a salad, you may wind up burning the protein you’ve added for fuel, which prevents the protein from being used for key maintenance and repair work. To strike a healthy balance, include a small portion—even just a third or half cup of a nutrient-rich whole food carb source, such as cooked chilled quinoa, roasted organic corn, or a cubed roasted red potato. I find that for my clients, this starch addition boosts satiety and energy in the hours after eating, but it’s still a small enough portion to allow for weight loss. In fact, when I’ve had clients resist adding carbs and skip this step, they typically seek out more snacks and wind up stalling weight loss. If you’re hesitant, try it and see how your body responds.

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Not enough seasoning

When I’ve heard people complain about disliking salads it’s typically because they’ve been eating very plain pairings, like romaine with just oil, vinegar, and bland grilled chicken. Fortunately there are plenty of ways to spruce salads up, and adding natural seasonings has been shown to further boost satiety and increase metabolism. Easy ways to add flavor include: toss fresh herbs into the mix like basil, cilantro or mint; whisk herbs, spices and raw or roasted garlic into oil and vinegar, and add pre-seasoned ingredients, like herbed quinoa, pesto-slathered grilled veggies, or spicy guacamole. A healthy salad should be a feast for your senses, and a dish you savor. And guess what? It’s entirely possible to achieve just that and shed pounds enjoying it!

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Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME medicine

9 Things to Know Before Buying Another Supplement

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A guide to avoiding sketchy ingredients and choosing the most trusted brands

The supplement aisle at the drugstore is lined with products that promise to prevent illness, improve energy, boost metabolism, even brighten your skin. You probably already know these capsules aren’t necessarily silver bullets to perfect health. (Whatever benefits your multivitamin or omega-3 supplements offer, you still have to exercise and eat right, for example.) But you do expect them to be safe to swallow, at the very least.

Sadly, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests otherwise. After analyzing supplements that had been recalled by the FDA for containing banned substances—such as steroids or powerful prescription medications like Viagra and Prozac—researchers found that roughly two-thirds of the tainted products were back on store shelves with the same illicit ingredients at least six months later.

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Because supplement makers are subject to little regulatory oversight from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, they aren’t required to prove a product’s safety (or efficacy) before it goes to market. And as this study shows, some fail at accurately providing the most basic safety information.

That said, the supplement industry is vast; Americans are expected to spend $32.4 billion on vitamins and dietary supplements in 2014, according to a Euromonitor International report. And there are reputable, safe supplement-makers out there.

Our buyer’s guide can help you avoid sketchy ingredients and choose the most established, trusted brands.

Be wary of certain types of pills

Namely exercise, weight-loss, and sexual-enhancement supplements. The products analyzed in the JAMA study fell into these three categories. Several of the weight-loss supplements actually contained an amphetamine-like drug called sibutramine, which is banned in the U.S., Asia, and Europe.

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Shop selectively

Big-chain drugstores, pharmacies, and supplement stores like GNC or the Vitamin Shoppe may act faster to pull recalled items.

Don’t bargain-hunt

A University of Minnesota analysis found that for six types of herbal products, the more expensive the supplement was, the more likely it was that the recommended dosage would be consistent with established standards.

Steer clear of supplements made in China

Lack of regulation and poor manufacturing practices in China mean their goods may be more likely to be contaminated with substances like lead.

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Check for a USP Verified Mark

It means that the nonprofit US Pharmacopeia has verified that a product contains the ingredients on the label in the amounts specified and doesn’t contain unacceptable levels of contaminants.

Do research at reputable sites

You can read supplement fact sheets from National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements to get all the info you need on everything from the recommended daily amount (RDA) to the latest on the health benefits of a certain supplement. It’s also a good idea to stay on top of warnings or recall alerts from the FDA. When you’re ready to buy, the USP website has a store directory and list of all the participating supplement companies if you want to check before you head to the store.

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Consult the experts

Namely, the store pharmacist and your doctor. The former can alert you to any potential adverse events or drug interactions, and your doc can advise you on which supplements are safe and effective.

Skip dubious ingredients

These four have been linked to serious side effects, and aren’t worth the risk.

  1. Kava. It has been reported to cause liver damage.
    2. Bitter orange. It contains the chemical syndephrine, which has been linked to heart attacks and strokes in healthy people when taken alone or combined with caffeine.
    3. Contaminated L-tryptophan. It’s associated with neurotoxic reactions.
    4. Chromium. When overused, it’s been linked to anemia—even kidney failure.

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With additional reporting by Hallie Levine

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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