TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Signs Your House is Making You Fat

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Transform your home into a slimmer space with these scientifically proven tips

Aside from work, you spend most of your hours at home. And it should function as a respite from the lure of the fast food joint on every corner, or the ease of buying a candy bar from the vending machine. But if your home isn’t set up right, it may be encouraging bad habits. One way to win the battle? “You can restructure your home environment to protect yourself from unhealthy food and a sedentary lifestyle,”says Sherry Pagoto, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the division of preventative and behavioral medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. From organizing your kitchen to your thermostat setting, read on to discover 5 ways your home may slyly cause you to pack on pounds.

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Your cabinets are overflowing

If your cabinets are so stuffed that you need to put food on your counters, fridge, or exposed shelving, you’re setting yourself up to trigger a craving. “A bag of potato chips or candy out in the open will put the food on your radar when you walk by. The minute you see that visual cue, you want it,” says Pagoto.

The fix: Clean out your pantry on a regular basis. Get rid of expired food and stuff you bought that you don’t like and won’t eat (but keep around anyway)—even if it’s healthy. Or, come up with alternate storage plans, like a cabinet in your basement.

Your apples are in the fridge

On the other hand, if healthy food is hidden, you’re less likely to eat it. That’s especially true if you keep fruits that don’t need to be refrigerated (like apples or pears) or whole veggies tucked away in the crisper drawers. When you’re busy, it’s faster to rip open a bag of chips than cut cruditès.

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The fix: Buy a pretty fruit bowl or basket so you’re more inclined to fill it; display in plain sight so you’re more likely to grab a piece. Pre-slice veggies and put them in clear containers front-and-center in the fridge for easy snacking.

Your thermostat is set too high

The fact that you can go anywhere—your home, the office, a store—and the temperature is set at somewhere-in-the-70s comfortable is a surprising contributor to obesity, say experts. Your body simply doesn’t have to work to expend energy to warm itself up, suggests a 2014 study in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. The result: your metabolism sputters.

The fix: Turn down your thermostat a few degrees. Being cold activates your brown fat, which actually spurs your metabolism and improves glucose sensitivity. If the change is too abrupt, start with one degree and gradually decrease the temperature. You’ll quickly adapt to the chillier temp, note researchers.

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You’re inviting the wrong people over

“Look at who your friends are,” says James O. Hill, PhD, director of the Colorado Nutrition Obesity Research Center. “You’re going to behave similarly to the people you spend time with.” If your friends are more the type to sit around and drink beer and eat chips, then you will be, too.

The fix: Okay, no one’s saying to lose your friends—no matter how bad their health habits. “Look for friends who are doing the right thing, and have them over, too,” says Dr. Hill. If they’re more active and like to eat nutritious foods, you’re more likely to adopt their habits. Conversely, their attitude can rub off on your less-than-virtuous pals.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Superfoods That Warm You Up

Your lights are too dim

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body scrambles hormone levels that control hunger, making you crave junk food. In one International Journal of Endocrinology study, sleep-deprived adults who were exposed to dim light in the morning had lower concentrations of the fullness hormone leptin, while those in blue light (the kind from energy-efficient bulbs) had higher leptin levels.

The fix: When you wake up, open your shades to allow natural sunlight in and turn on lamps and overhead lights. Bonus: It’ll also help you wake up faster.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

7 High-Protein Snacks You Can Eat on the Go

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Protein can help you lose weight because it increases satisfaction

The difference between a snack that has staying power and one that leaves you hungry an hour later? Protein. This nutrient is a hunger-busting powerhouse because it slows digestion and keeps blood sugar steady, and research shows protein helps keep cravings at bay. “Protein can help you lose weight because it increases satisfaction, and when you feel satisfied from your eating plan, you’re better able to stick with it,” says Alexandra Oppenheimer, RD, of Ambitious & Nutritious. But it’s not like you can cook up a chicken breast and eat it in the car, so we’ve rounded up 7 protein-packed snacks that you can take with you anywhere.

Single-serve cottage cheese

Protein: 20 grams per 5-ounce serving

Think Greek yogurt is the be-all-end-all for high-protein dairy snacks? Think again: A single-serving container of nonfat cottage cheese boasts 3 grams more protein than a typical serving of Greek yogurt and is just 110 calories. Plus, it gives you 125 milligrams of bone-building calcium. (Keep in mind, though, it runs high in sodium, supplying 20 to 30% of your daily quota.)

HEALTH.COM: 14 Non-Dairy Foods That Are High in Calcium

Hardboiled egg

Protein: 6 grams per egg

Eggs used to be considered a nutritional no-no due to their high cholesterol content. Today, though, most nutritionists agree that they’re a powerhouse breakfast or snack when enjoyed in moderation. In addition to protein, the humble egg gives you a hearty dose of vitamin D and vitamin B-12 for just 77 calories apiece. Best part: they’re easy to take on the run—just remember to peel them before you go to make eating them on your commute a snap. Even better: some convenience and grocery stores sell hardboiled eggs in packages of two, so they’re a snap to snatch up when traveling.

Watch the video: How to Peel a Hard-Boiled Egg With a Spoon

Peanut butter pack

Protein: 8 grams per 1.15-ounce pack

You probably wouldn’t throw a jar of peanut butter into your handbag, but for convenience and natural portion control, you can carry individual squeeze packs of nut butters, like those from Justin’s, alongside your wallet and mobile phone. A single-serving portion of Justin’s peanut butter contains 190 calories and is made with just peanuts and palm fruit oil—no added sugars here. Smear on a banana to up the antioxidants and fiber, suggests Oppenheimer.

Mini cheeses or string cheese

Protein: 6 to 8 grams per serving

Personal packages of cheese like Mini Babybel wheels or Sargento sticks are great because they’re individually wrapped for easy toss-in-your-purse portability—and they won’t get squished, either. If you’re trying to lose weight, choose one that says “part-skim” on the label, advises New York City registered dietitian Martha McKittrick. “You can still get some satiating fat but will save calories,” she says.

Single-serve oatmeal packets or cups

Protein: About 4 grams per packet or cup

Just add hot water, stir, and you’ve got a warm bowl of protein- and fiber-packed oats in minutes for 150 to 200 calories per serving (depending on which flavor you choose). Quaker, Dr. McDougall’s, N’Joy, and other companies sell single-serving cups of oatmeal, but you could also simply carry a packet with you—you can ask for a cup at any fast-food place or coffee shop. For times you need a little something extra to fill you up, slice a banana into your oats or toss in a few almonds.

HEALTH.COM: The Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

Edamame

Protein: 8 grams per half cup

In addition to belly-filling protein, a 90-calorie microwave package of edamame (soybeans in their pods) supplies 3 grams of fiber. The combo of protein and fiber is potent against hunger. Got a crunchy craving? You’re in luck: one serving of dry roasted edamame has even more protein: 14 grams.

Roasted chickpeas

Protein: 7 grams per quarter-cup serving

For only 120 calories per serving, these beans offer 5 grams each of protein and fiber. Better yet, a daily serving of dietary pulses like chickpeas (as well as beans, lentils, and peas) can lower LDL cholesterol levels, according to research in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Make your own by mixing rinsed and drained chickpeas in a bowl with olive oil and your choice of spices (we love chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper) and then baking them in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Discover 10 more high-protein snacks at Health.com

TIME Research

6 Medical Breakthroughs That Matter

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Including an alternative cancer treatment

It’s not every day that you catch wind of a true health game changer. That’s because research is more often than not a long, slow process of trial and error, and for every bright idea there are a bunch that don’t pan out. Luckily, this year brought plenty of major steps forward, including a new cure for a deadly disease and innovative gadgets that zap your migraines. Here are the developments making a difference right now.

New tech for migraine pain

Technology is opening up a new route to much-needed headache helpers. “Current drugs just don’t do the trick for many people,” says John Delfino, MD, a headache specialist at NYU Langone Medical Center. But the FDA recently approved two gadgets for migraines: Cefaly, a band that’s worn across your forehead for 20 minutes daily, and SpringTMS, a device you hold to the back of your head at the onset of pain. Both work by stimulating certain nerves deep in the head, using electrical signals (in the case of Cefaly) or magnetic energy (for the SpringTMS). There’s also new hope for debilitating cluster headaches in the form of an electrode that’s implanted behind the jaw and controlled by a remote. In the initial trial, 68% reported relief when they turned on the electrode during a headache, and of that group, over 80% had fewer episodes.

HEALTH.COM: 18 Signs You’re Having a Migraine

A watch that tracks your health

Say good-bye to your current fit tracker: The Apple Watch, when used with your iPhone, can log your steps and even your heart rate, giving you more feedback in one gizmo than ever. (Oh, and you can ask Siri for directions during your runs.) Available early next year, the watch will sync with the Health iPhone app, which you can get now. You can use Health to import your calorie, sleep, and fitness data from apps you already use, like Nike+.

An alternative cancer treatment

Everyone knows the storied side effects of chemotherapy: hair loss, diarrhea and more. That’s because chemo drugs destroy cells that multiply quickly, whether they’re cancerous or healthy. But scientists are finally finding success with a more selective approach: immunotherapy. These treatments harness your body’s natural defenses to beat cancer back. “What we’ve discovered is that cancer cells evade your immune system by putting it into overdrive, causing it to tire out and give up. The new drugs interrupt the cycle so your body can fight,” explains J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. The results so far have been staggering: “It’s not an overstatement to say this is a turning point in cancer research, especially for patients with melanoma,” Dr. Lichtenfeld says. Treatments for cancers of the kidney, lung and pancreas could be up next.

HEALTH.COM: 15 Worst Things to Say to a Cancer Patient

A real cure for Hep C

Usually symptomless, hepatitis C kills 15,000 Americans a year. Until now, treatment helped a mere 30 to 40% of people with the virus, which is passed via infected blood and can lead to liver failure and liver cancer. But in December 2013, the FDA approved Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), a pill that cures up to 90% of hep C patients when used with another new drug, simeprevir. “Before, it was like fighting a war with flyswatters, but now the big guns have arrived,” says Douglas Dieterich, MD, professor of medicine in the division of liver disease at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, who also was involved in clinical trials of Sovaldi. More help is expected to be FDA-approved soon: ledipasvir, combined with sofosbuvir, for one form of hep C known as genotype 1, as well as a three-drug cocktail that has cured 90% of people treated with it.

HEALTH.COM: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Hepatitis

A smarter pregnancy test

An upgraded pee stick from Clearblue not only tells you if you’re pregnant but also gives you an idea of how far along you might be, via an extra strip that measures the concentration (not just the presence) of human chorionic gonadotropin in your urine. “It doesn’t beat the tests your doctor will run. But it could help women with irregular periods (caused by, say, breast-feeding or polycystic ovary syndrome) begin prenatal care on time,” says Pamela Berens, MD, professor of ob-gyn at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

A new way to fight breast cancer

Women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an abnormality that can become invasive breast cancer, or a strong family history of the disease are often prescribed tamoxifen to prevent it. “But many women won’t even start taking it, because they’ve heard of side effects like hot flashes and blood clots,” says Seema Khan, MD, of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. To see if there might be a better way, Dr. Khan prescribed tamoxifen in the form of either a pill or a gel applied to the breast to 26 women awaiting surgery for DCIS. Women who used the gel showed the same decrease in abnormal cell growth as the pill group—and they had no increase in blood markers linked to clots and other symptoms. The availability of the gel is still a few years away, but Dr. Khan says a topical gel might work for other drugs as well, suggesting that this is one discovery that could lead to many more.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Things That (Probably) DON’T Cause Breast Cancer

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME medicine

10 Biggest Myths About the Flu

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Don't get us wrong, we're all for washing your hands with soap and water. But it's not enough to stop the flu

Every flu season—which starts in October and peaks in January and February in the U.S.—as many as 20% of Americans get sick with a virus that can cause serious, even lethal complications (not to mention the general awfulness of a fever, chills, congestion, and body aches). So how come there are still so many myths and rumors about the flu? While officials aren’t predicting whether this year’s influenza will be better or worse than in years past, it’s smart to make sure you know the truth about this dreaded virus and what you can do to reduce your risk of catching it.

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You can catch the flu from the flu shot

No, you can’t. Really. This longstanding rumor just won’t die no matter how often experts debunk it. “The flu vaccine is made with dead viral particles, and since the virus is not living, it can’t infect you,” explains Holly Phillips, M.D., a New York City internist and WCBS News medical contributor. The nasal-spray version of the vaccine, called the FluMist, (which is FDA-approved for kids and adults between ages two and 49 who are healthy and not pregnant) does contain a crippled version of live flu virus. However, it still can’t make you sick, says Dr. Phillips. This misconception may stem from the fact that it takes 2 weeks for your body to form antibodies to the vaccine and fully protect you. So if you pick up a cold or the flu before or just after rolling up your sleeve, don’t blame your runny nose and sore throat on the shot.

Young, healthy people don’t need to worry about the flu

“While it’s true that influenza is most threatening to the very young, the elderly, and people with underlying illnesses, it can still cause severe symptoms in otherwise healthy people,” says Dr. Phillips. That’s why the CDC recommends that everyone get the shot, preferably early in flu season. Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, getting the shot can stop you from transmitting the virus to more vulnerable people. “The more people who get the shot, the more we cut down on the amount of influenza circulating in the population, which can protect your grandmother or child,” says Dr. Phillips. Even if you don’t regularly interact with kids or seniors, take a few minutes and get the shot—at your doctor’s office, local pharmacy, or community health center. You can’t pass on a virus you never got in the first place.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Ways You Put Yourself at Risk for the Flu (Without Realizing It)

The flu includes gastrointestinal symptoms

As miserable as symptoms of the flu are, digestive distress is rarely one of them. What’s politely called the “stomach flu” is a colloquial term that refers to a group of viruses that primarily cause vomiting and diarrhea, says Dr. Phillips. “These viruses are not influenza,” she says. That’s not to say that the flu doesn’t occasionally lead to some gastrointestinal issues; some sufferers do experience nausea and even vomiting. But if you develop these symptoms without any of the classic flu tip-offs, you’re probably dealing with an entirely different germ.

Pregnant women can’t get a flu shot

On the contrary, all pregnant women should get the jab as soon as possible. “The flu shot is very safe for pregnant women, and getting it can even protect the baby for the first few months of life, when he or she is not old enough to get the flu shot yet but is very vulnerable to illness,” says Dr. Phillips. (Babies at least six months old are eligible for the vaccine.) Antibodies that form in response to the shot will not only protect you from the flu, they will protect your baby after birth and be delivered via breast milk, according to the CDC. Pregnancy causes immune, heart, and lung changes that can increase your risk for a bad case of flu, which can affect your pregnancy. “High fevers and severe infections can lead to serious pregnancy complications and even premature labor,” says Dr. Phillips.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Diet Changes All Pregnant Women Must Make

You can stop the flu by washing your hands a lot

Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for washing your hands with soap and water. But it’s not enough to stop the flu. Influenza is spread through the air via droplets of saliva from a person who is contagious (which starts a day before symptoms show and up to seven days after). The droplets can land on you and get into your nose, mouth, and eyes. You can also pick up the flu by touching contaminated surfaces (the flu can live up to eight hours on surfaces, according to the CDC), then touching your hand to your face. So wash your hands with soap and water and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. This slashes your risk somewhat, Dr. Leavey says. It’s also important to stand at least six feet from anyone with the flu; the airborne droplets can’t travel farther than that. Disinfect common areas in your home or workplace if someone with the flu spent time there. And above all, get vaccinated.

If you get the flu, the shot didn’t work

The flu vaccine isn’t like vaccines that protect you against measles or polio, which offer 100% protection. Usually, the flu shot is only about 60 to 90% effective. That’s because multiple strains circulate every year, and it’s difficult for scientists to predict perfectly which strains will be dominant. “If you do get the flu after going for the shot, it just means that you contracted a different strain that wasn’t included in the vaccine,” says Dr. Phillips. If this happens, there is an upside: your symptoms will likely be less severe, since the shot will probably be at least somewhat effective against the strain you have, she adds. And keep in mind that to the CDC, a flu shot is a success if it prevents hospitalizations and deaths, not if you sail through the season without a sniffle.

Antibiotics can fight the flu

There’s no point in bugging your doctor—antibiotics don’t work on viruses. That said, there are Rx antiviral meds that might help. Tamiflu is the best known; this drug has been shown to cut the course of the disease by 1-2 days, if you take it within 48 hours of the first sign of flu symptoms. These are generally recommended only for those at high risk of complications. “The effects are relatively modest,” says Dr. Phillips. “Once you have the flu, you’re going to be miserable regardless. Prevention with the flu shot is a better approach.” Other meds that can offer some relief include over-the-counter fever reducers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, as well as congestion fighters. Best bet? Stay home, get some rest, drink lots of fluids, and wait it out (but be on your guard for serious complications).

Bell’s palsy is a side effect of the flu shot

Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes weakness or paralysis on one side of the face. It’s usually temporary, clearing up after several weeks, and it’s typically thought to be triggered by a viral infection, such as herpes simplex (the virus responsible for cold sores) or Epstein-Barr, which leads to mononucleosis. How did the flu get into the mix? Decades ago, a few isolated cases of people developing Bell’s palsy after getting a flu vaccine were reported. Yet no link was ever established showing that one caused the other, says Dr. Phillips. The overwhelming consensus is that the two have nothing to do with each other, adds Dr. Leavey.

HEALTH.COM: Unexpected Ways to Prevent the Flu

Flu shots can cause Alzheimer’s

The flu shot doesn’t cause any illness or condition, and that includes Alzheimer’s disease, says Dr. Leavey. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that leads to memory loss and other cognitive changes. Why some people develop Alzheimer’s is not fully understood, and that opens the door to lots of speculation—which seems to be how the rumor linking the flu jab to Alzheimer’s got its start. “The connection also has to do with the fact that senior citizens are strongly advised to get a flu shot every year, so people associate old age with flu shots, the way they associate old age with Alzheimer’s,” he says. “Or an elderly person who had a flu shot begins showing signs of memory loss months later. The two are unrelated, yet people conclude that the vaccine had something to do with it.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Research

4 Surprising Things Your Nose Can Tell You About Your Health

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Not being able to smell well could signal the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease

No one appreciates their sense of smell when they pass a trash heap or accidentally step in dog poop. But your nose knows a lot—not just when things stink. In fact, your ability to smell, or not, can tell you a lot about your health. Here’s why you shouldn’t take your whiffing powers for granted.

A bad sense of smell can signal an early death

Feel like your sense of smell has gone south over the years? If it’s less than stellar, it could be a tip-off that you’re not in good health. A new study from the University of Chicago Medical Center found that not being able to detect certain odors had an increased risk of dying within five years. A whopping 39% of older patients who couldn’t pick up on scents like orange, rose, and peppermint died within that time frame, compared to only 19% of so-so smellers, and 10% of good smellers.

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Poor smell detection may be a sign of Alzheimer’s

Not being able to smell well could signal the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, according a Harvard Medical School study. Participants with elevated levels of amyloid plaques (telltale proteins found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients) who performed worse on an odor identification test also had greater brain cell death. Why? When the disease starts to kill brain cells, this often includes cells crucial for your sense of smell.

HEALTH.COM: 25 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Smelling something weird could predict a stroke

Some people pick up on more scents than others, but brief episodes of smelling something completely off-base—like fish when there isn’t any around—may be a sign of stroke or a seizure. The American Academy of Neurology says these “olfactory hallucinations” are usually unpleasant smells, but they can differ from person to person, according to the Mayo Clinic. Contact your doctor right away if your nose seems to be going haywire.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Stroke Symptoms Everyone Should Know

Imagining odors can precede a migraine

While it’s relatively uncommon, people may also hallucinate a smell as part of a pre-migraine aura, according to a review of research done by the Montefiore Headache Center. Again, the scents were mostly unpleasant: the most common were of things burning or decomposing.

HEALTH.COM: 18 Signs You’re Having a Migraine

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

12 Superfoods That Warm You Up

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When the weather gets cold, turn to these hot and spicy comfort foods to stay snug as a fall sweater

As the temperature drops, don’t be tempted to warm your belly with rich macaroni and cheese and creamy soup. Instead, get that toasty feeling from superfoods: healthy eats that are loaded with nutrients, antioxidants, and immune-boosting powers that your body needs to power itself through cold weather. Read on to find the best hot foods to eat on chilly days and a few healthy tidbits to prepare them for ultimate nutrition.

Oatmeal

When it gets cooler, it’s the perfect time to break out the oatmeal. Oats are a whole grain, so you’ll get a dose of fiber and plant-based protein to stop hunger with just one bowl. Plus, oatmeal contains a powerful starch called beta-glucan. Research in Nutrition Reviews found that just 3 grams a day of the beta-glucan in oats may reduce your bad cholesterol levels by 5 to 10%, whether they start out normal or high. You can get extra nutrition if you choose the right toppings too. “To get some healthy fat mixed in, I add almond butter and chia seeds,” says Keri Gans, RD, a dietitian in New York City and author of The Small Change Diet.

Try this recipe: Chai Oatmeal

Hot chocolate

Curling up with a cup of hot cocoa is one way to feel snug—just nix the sugary powdered mix with marshmallow bits. “When I make it, I like to melt two squares of dark chocolate and stir it into regular or almond milk,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health‘s contributing nutrition editor. Adding a little dark chocolate to your diet is a great health booster too. The sweet contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant thought to reduce the damage caused by free radicals, potential instigators of cancer and cardiovascular disease. A study in the Journal of Immunology Researchfound that red blood cells were less susceptible to free radicals after people consumed a drink with flavonoid-rich cocoa.

Try this recipe: Parisian Hot Chocolate

Black bean soup

There’s nothing like a soup with cumin and chili pepper to heat you up when things get cold. The nutrition star of this dish, though, is the beans. Black beans are a good source of iron and copper. So sipping on this soup will help your muscles use more oxygen and boost your immune system, Gans says. A typical serving of soup would include nearly a cup of black beans, which provides 15 grams each of protein and fiber. Unlike animal protein sources, black beans contain almost no saturated fat. Research from the American Chemical Society also shows their black skins contain higher levels of the disease-fighting antioxidants flavonoids than any other type of bean.

Try this recipe: Black Bean Soup

Brussels sprouts

Eating these mini cabbages may just help you fight a cold this fall. In addition to being packed with fiber and cancer-fighting phytonutrients, Brussels sprouts run high in vitamin C at 74.8 milligrams a cup. It won’t prevent the sniffles completely, but vitamin C has been shown to reduce the length of cold symptoms. Though the bitter taste of Brussels sprouts tends to scare some people away, heating them up can make a huge difference in flavor. “I would roast them with olive oil,” Gans says. That will help bring out the sweetness. (You can make these 12 other veggies taste better too.)

Try this recipe: Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan and Pine Nuts

Pumpkin soup

If you’re lacking vitamin A, the nutrient critical for promoting vision, a dose of pumpkin will do you good, Gans says. Most adult women should be getting 700 micrograms a day, according to the National Institutes of Health. In a serving of soup, you would use a third to a half cup of pumpkin puree, Gans says. So you could be getting more than a day’s worth of this vitamin in most recipes. Be mindful of a recipe with cream, though, if you’re looking to cut back on calories. Pumpkin also has antioxidant properties thanks to beta-carotene, Gans says. It’s a pigment usually found in bright-colored produce, and it’s thought to have cancer-fighting powers. A study in Anticancer Research treated human breast cells using carotenoids, including beta-carotene and lycopene, and found they can prevent their growth.

Try this recipe: Curried Pumpkin Soup

Chili

The peppers in your stew contain a compound called capsaicin, which gives them their spicy kick. It’s also thought to boost metabolism and fight the buildup of fat. When paired with a high-fat diet, capsaicin was found to decrease body weight by 8%, according to an animal study conducted by Korean researchers. No matter the variety, the beans in chili also pack protein to help you build muscle. That’s not all. Tomato paste is rich in lycopene, and the onions provide unique antioxidants, Sass says. Think about cutting back on the meat in your chili from time to time though. A National Institutes of Health study found that men and women who consumed the most red meat were at increased risk for death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Try this recipe: All-American Chili

Avocado

There’s a way to enjoy this creamy fruit when it’s chilly. “Oven roasting avocado makes it even creamier,” Sass says. “Chop it up warm and put on top of another vegetable.” Bonus: about half of the fat of avocado comes from monounsaturated fat, which helps lower your bad cholesterol levels and provide nutrients for cells to function, according to the American Heart Association. They might also help you stay full. A study in Nutrition Journal found that eating a meal with avocado increased satisfaction by 23% over a five-hour period. Just watch your portion size: a serving is just one-fifth of an avocado.

Try this recipe: Chilled Avocado Soup

Walnuts

Walnuts are good any time of year, but they make a lovely roasted snack in the fall. “Walnuts toast awesome on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 5 minutes,” Sass says. Lightly misting with oil and adding seasonings like pepper can up the flavor in a healthy way. Even better, walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one omega-3 fat thought to boost heart health. In the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, a study found that people who ate a diet of walnuts, walnut oil, and flax oil had reduced resting blood pressure and blood flow resistance in their arteries than those who ate a diet lower in ALA.

Try this recipe: Walnut Coffee Cake

Apples

Baked apples make the perfect sweet treat for fall. The fruit packs soluble and insoluble fiber. One slows digestion and the other helps food pass through your system more smoothly. That means less hunger and tummy troubles. Just make sure you leave the skins on—they’re a more concentrated source of fiber than the flesh, says Melissa Rifkin, RD, a bariatric dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. An unpeeled medium-sized apple contains 4.4 grams offiber. “If you sprinkle some cinnamon on top you get more antioxidants,” Rifkin says. Plus, apples are made up of nearly 86% water, so munching on the fruit will help you stay hydrated as you bundle up.

Try this recipe: Baked Apple Fritters

Sweet potatoes

Like pumpkin, sweet potatoes are particularly high in vitamin A. One baked, medium-sized spud contains 438% of your daily value. Plus, you’ll get nearly 4 grams of fiber—mostly found in the skin—to fill your tummy. Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and a bit of iron. “If you bake the sweet potato by itself, it’s generally a low-calorie food,” Rifkin says. Just try to avoid slathering fatty butter or margarine on top. A better bet: rosemary. It has B vitamins and cancer-fighting phytochemicals, Rifkin says. The compounds are thought to block carcinogens from acting on your body’s tissues, according to the American Cancer Society. Bonus: a little rosemary will give your sweet potatoes amazing flavor.

Try this recipe: Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes With Bacon and Sour Cream

Squash

In addition to having some calcium and vitamin C, most varieties of squash are high in potassium. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found a diet high in potassium (while also curbing sodium) could reduce risk of stroke by 21% and lower odds of developing heart disease. Squash is also rich in vitamin A and contains hunger-busting fiber. Take one of Rifkin’s favorites, butternut squash. A cup of baked cubes has 457% of your daily vitamin A, 7 grams of fiber, and just 82 calories. Even better, you can warm up all its parts. Bake the insides and season with garlic salt, pepper, even cumin or turmeric, Rifkin suggests. “You could also take out the seeds and bake them like pumpkin seeds,” Rifkin says.

Try this recipe: Gingery Butternut Squash and Tofu Curry

Ginger tea

If you’re thinking of reaching for a cup of tea, opt for a brew with ginger. “Ginger has thermogenic properties that can keep you warm,” Rifkin says. Because of its heating powers, ginger may also boost metabolism and promote blood flow. A study in Metabolism had one group of men consume 2 grams of ginger powder in a hot drink with their breakfast. Researchers found the men who drank the ginger beverage reported less hunger and greater fullness a few hours later than those who didn’t consume the ginger. Adding the spice to your tea could also help relieve body aches, like the ones you get after an intense workout. In a study for theInternational Journal of Preventative Medicine, one group of female athletes took three grams of ginger daily and reported less muscle soreness after six weeks than those who didn’t receive ginger.

Try this recipe: Honey-Ginger Tea

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

6 Strange But True Health Tips

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Grabbing a 100-calorie snack pack of cookies or pretzels may seem virtuous, but it's more likely to make you hungrier than if you ate something more substantial

Many methods to improve your health are pretty straightforward: to lose weight, eat less and exercise more; to boost your energy, get more sleep; to prevent dehydration, drink more water. Others, however, are totally counterintuitive. The following tips really do work—but they may leave you scratching your head.

Drink coffee to have a better nap

In a Japanese study that examined how to make the most of a nap, people who took a “coffee nap”—consuming about 200 milligrams of caffeine (the amount in one to two cups of coffee) and then immediately taking a 20-minute rest—felt more alert and performed better on computer tests than those who only took a nap.

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Why does this work? A 20-minute nap ends just as the caffeine kicks in and clears the brain of a molecule called adenosine, maximizing alertness. “Adenosine is a byproduct of wakefulness and activity,” says Allen Towfigh, MD, medical director of New York Neurology & Sleep Medicine. “As adenosine levels increase, we become more fatigued. Napping clears out the adenosine and, when combined with caffeine, an adenosine-blocker, further reduces its effects and amplifies the effects of the nap.”

For healthy teeth, don’t brush after eating

Don’t brush your teeth immediately after meals and drinks, especially if they were acidic. Acidic foods—citrus fruits, sports drinks, tomatoes, soda (both diet and regular)—can soften tooth enamel “like wet sandstone,” says Howard R. Gamble, immediate past president of the Academy of General Dentistry. Brushing your teeth at this stage can speed up acid’s effect on your enamel and erode the layer underneath. Gamble suggests waiting 30 to 60 minutes before brushing.

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To wear a smaller size, gain weight

Muscle weight, that is. If two women both weigh 150 pounds and only one lifts weights, the lifter will more likely fit into a smaller pant size than her sedentary counterpart. Likewise, a 150-pound woman who lifts weights could very well wear the same size as a 140-pound woman who doesn’t exercise. The reason: Although a pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle, muscle takes up less space, says Mark Nutting, fitness director of SACO Sport & Fitness in Saco, Maine. “You can get bigger muscles and get smaller overall if you lose the fat,” he says. “The bulk so many women fear only occurs if you don’t lose fat and develop muscle on top of it.” Cut back on calories and add weight to your workout to lose inches.

To eat less, eat more

Grabbing a 100-calorie snack pack of cookies or pretzels may seem virtuous, but it’s more likely to make you hungrier than if you ate something more substantial, says Amy Goodson, RD, dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine. “Eating small amounts of carbohydrates does nothing but spike your blood sugar and leave you wanting more carbs.” Goodson recommends choosing a protein such as peanut butter or string cheese with an apple. “They are higher in calories per serving, but the protein and fat helps you get full faster and stay full longer—and you end up eating fewer calories overall,” she says.

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Skip energy drinks when you’re tired

Energy drinks contain up to five times more caffeine than coffee, but the boost they provide is fleeting and comes with unpleasant side effects like nervousness, irritability, and rapid heartbeat, says Goodson. Plus, energy drinks often contain high levels of taurine, a central nervous system stimulant, and upwards of 50 grams of sugar per can (that’s 13 teaspoons worth!). The sweet stuff spikes blood sugar temporarily, only to crash soon after, leaving you sluggish and foggyheaded—and reaching for another energy drink.

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Drink a hot beverage to cool off

Which will cool you off faster on a steamy summer morning: iced coffee or hot? Two recent studies say the latter—and so do others where drinking hot tea in hot weather is the norm, like in India. When you sip a hot beverage, your body senses the change in temperature and increases your sweat production. Then, as the sweat evaporates from your skin, you cool off naturally.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME medicine

6 Common Prescription Mistakes You Might Be Making

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In honor of Talk About Your Medicines Month

It’s hard to imagine a time when there wasn’t a pill—sometimes dozens of different ones—to treat so many health conditions. Today, 70% of Americans take at least one prescription drug and more than half take two, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While the healing powers of modern medicine are pretty awesome, you still need to be cautious when it comes to any drug. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure 1.3 million people annually.

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In honor of Talk About Your Medicines Month, read up on common mistakes to avoid with your prescriptions.

You get the brand name over generic

Yes, they’re cheaper, but generic drugs are just as effective as the brand name. To be approved by the FDA, a generic drug must have the same active ingredients as the original. The only difference is the inactive ingredients, like dye or preservatives, which don’t affect the action of the drug. “Small variations in the generic are permissible,” says Kim Russo, PharmD, chief clinical officer at VUCA Health, a medication video service available at certain pharmacies nationwide. “Most of the time we don’t even medically notice it.” If you don’t tolerate one of the inactive ingredients well, then you might need the brand name. Otherwise, save yourself the money and go with the generic.

You mix your meds with the wrong foods (or drinks)

Always check what foods or drinks could interact with your medicine. One to watch out for: grapefruit and grapefruit juice. “As many as 50 drugs on the market can be affected,” Russo says. Depending on the drug, grapefruit juice can reduce or increase absorption­—the latter could lead to overdose. Then there are certain drugs that shouldn’t be taken with calcium-rich foods because they interfere with your body’s absorption of the medication, Russo says. Plus, there are medications that cause you to lose or retain potassium, so you’ll want to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether you need to start (or stop) eating certain foods. And you should ask your doctor if it’s OK to drink alcohol while taking your prescription. “Alcohol can turn possible mild side effects into dangerous ones,” Russo says. The FDA has more info on bad food-drug combos.

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You don’t check your Rx label at the pharmacy

To save yourself the stress of a medication error, make sure you have the right prescription before you leave the pharmacy. If your pharmacist only asks for your name at the counter, provide another identifier, like a birth date or address. That way you’ll know the drug is filled under the correct person, Russo says. Another good idea: open your bag. “I would read the label and open the prescription to see if you recognize it,” Russo says. A different color or shape may just mean the drug is coming from a new generic manufacturer, but it never hurts to be safe.

You don’t talk to your pharmacist

Most pharmacists will ask if you have questions about your medication. But when’s the last time you actually voiced one? It’s never a good idea to rush through picking up a new prescription. That’s the time to find out what the medicine is for as well as the benefits and possible side effects or drug interactions, Russo says. If you’ve been on the medication a while and have noticed unexplained changes lately, say a rash or constant headache, that’s also a good time to speak up. On three or more medications? “It’s a great idea once a year to make an appointment with your pharmacist to review them,” Russo suggests.

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You store your meds in the wrong spots

The number one worst place you could keep your medication is the bathroom. That’s because moisture can degrade medicine, Russo says. Medications also need to be protected from light. “That’s why prescription vials are the amber color, to block UV light,” Russo says. Still, you should keep medication in a dark place, especially if you have a pill organizer that’s clear and light can get through. Certain drugs shouldn’t be taken out of the vial at all. Some medications, like insulin, might need to be refrigerated initially, but can be taken out to warm up before injecting and then stored at room temperature for a set number of days. Just keep in mind some drugs are meant to be kept in the fridge and they can lose their effectiveness if left at room temperature for even a few hours, Russo says. Check with your pharmacist to know how long is too long.

You don’t dispose of old meds properly

Most pills remain effective up to two years after the expiration date, Russo says. When it’s time to get rid of them, though, don’t count on the toilet as your go-to disposal method. “Flushing certain cardiac, seizure, or hormone medications can be very harmful to the environment,” Russo says. Only a few medications, including ones for pain, are recommended by the FDA for disposal by flushing. The rest you should throw in a plastic bag with kitty litter or used coffee grounds so kids or pets won’t be tempted to eat them. Then, the bag’s ready for the trash. You could also ask your pharmacist about upcoming medicine take-back programs.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Aging

5 Reasons Why Women Live Longer Than Men

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Life expectancy in the U.S. is at an all-time high, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And while the news that we’re living, on average, to the ripe old age of 78 years and 9 ½ months isn’t that surprising, there is one stat that is: A girl born in 2012 can expect to live to 81.2 years—almost 5 years longer than a boy baby born the same year, who’s likely live to age 76.4. Weaker sex, indeed.

“Men are biologically and sociologically at a disadvantage from the time they’re conceived to the time they die,” says Marianne Legato, MD, professor emerita of clinical medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and founder and director of the Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine. Here’s why:

Females are tougher in utero

Two and a half as many boys are conceived as girls, Dr. Legato says, but they’re so much more likely to succumb to prenatal infection or other issues in the womb that by the time they’re born, the ratio is close to one to one. “They’re also slower to develop physically than girls prenatally, which means they’re more likely to die if they are preemies due to underdeveloped lung or brain development,” Dr. Legato explains.

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Women are less likely to be daredevils

Unintentional injuries are the third leading cause of death in men, according to the CDC; for women it’s only the sixth. Again, you can blame it on biology: The frontal lobes of the brain—which deal with responsibility and risk calculation—develop much more slowly in males than females, Dr. Legato says.

The result: Guys often take many more risks (which you probably already realize if your small son has taken one too many spins off his bike handlebars). “Almost inevitably, a male will take risks that a woman of his same age wouldn’t take,” Dr. Legato says.

Women succumb to heart disease later

Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women, but men are more likely to develop it—and die from it—as early as their 30s and 40s. Women, on the other hand, typically develop heart disease 10 years later than men. They’re protected from it until menopause, since their bodies churn out estrogen, which helps keep arteries strong and flexible, says Dr. Legato.

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Women have stronger social networks

Friends make good medicine: People with strong social connections have a 50% lower chance of dying than those with few social ties, according to a 2010 study at Brigham Young University. “Most men tend to hold their stress and worries close to their chest, while women tend to reach out and talk to others,” Dr. Legato explains. The one exception: married men, which also explains why so many studies show that they’re likely to be healthier and live longer.

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Women take better care of their health

Men are 24% less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year and are 22% more likely to skip out on cholesterol testing, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. In fact more than a quarter (28%) of men don’t have a regular physician and about one in five didn’t have health insurance in 2012, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

You can blame it on the so-called John Wayne syndrome: “Men often deny illness; they minimize symptoms because they don’t want to go to a doctor and find out something is wrong,” Dr. Legato notes.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Salty Food That’s Shockingly Healthy

Pickles
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Pop quiz: What do pickles, vinegar, tempeh, chocolate and wine have in common? Yes, they’re all delicious—and they’re all fermented. And that means they all have major health perks.

Cultures around the world have enjoyed fermented foods for millennia; they devour kimchi in Korea, sauerkraut in Germany and cheese—everywhere. Now fermenting is appealing to consumers eager to return to naturally healthy ways of eating. Top chefs are embracing it too; Momofuku’s David Chang has a culinary lab dedicated to food science, including fermentation, which he calls the “machinery of flavor.” Fermentation is what happens “when rotten goes right,” Chang says. It may sound kind of gross, but fermentation involves “good” micro-organisms breaking down or partially digesting food, which makes nutrients easier for your body to absorb. Research suggests that fermented foods can also strengthen immunity.

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Fermentation helps extend shelf life (think how much longer a block of Cheddar lasts than a carton of milk) and can make food safer, since foodborne pathogens are less likely to survive in the acidic environment fermentation creates.

You’re probably already enjoying many of these foods. Here are some of my favorites.

Miso
This paste, made from fermented soybeans, is the essential ingredient in the Japanese soup of the same name. The darker the miso, the longer it has been fermented, and the saltier and stronger the flavor will be. I keep a container in my fridge and use it in marinades and glazes for chicken or fish. I also make salad dressing out of it: I mix 1 tablespoon of miso with a little chopped garlic and ginger, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and 1 or 2 teaspoons of honey. Then I whisk in 2 to 4 tablespoons of a neutral oil, like grapeseed.

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Sourdough bread
It’s lower on the glycemic index, so it’s less likely to wreak havoc on your blood sugar and leave you hungry and craving more carbs. Try it as French toast, croutons, bread crumbs and stuffing.

Pickles
Be sure the label says “fermented.” Commercially made pickles and capers aren’t always made using good bacteria; often they’re just soaked in brine.

Wine and beer
They’re both fermented (yay!). You don’t need me to tell you how to enjoy them.

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Other delicious ideas: Swap tempeh for tofu in a stir-fry, pile sauerkraut on a turkey sandwich or marinate chicken in buttermilk overnight. With so many great choices, you’ll be in a pickle in no time (but in a good way).

Snack On This: If you love sriracha, the super flavorful Southeast Asian hot sauce, like I do, grab a bag of Indiana Sriracha Popcorn ($4 for a 6-oz. bag; at Whole Foods Market). Seasoned with red chili pepper, it brings the heat. And studies suggest that chiles boost metabolism.

Gotta Have It: When I see something I don’t recognize on a food label, I turn to the Chemical Cuisine app (free; iTunes and Google Play) from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Search the alphabetical list of 130-plus food additives; color-coded icons indicate whether the ingredient you’re curious about is safe, OK for some people or to be avoided completely.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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