If you think that losing weight and improving your health has to involve a dreary regimen of eating bland, tasteless food and fitting long gym visits into your busy schedule, we’ve got a happy surprise for you: A few easy, pleasant changes can make a big difference, according to recent research.

Spice Up Your Food.  Researchers at Penn State (including our friend, Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton) fed a small group of six overweight men a high-fat meal without spices, then the same meal a week later with the addition of a zesty dose of spices. Blood tests before and after both meals showed that the spicy meal cut the production of insulin by 21% and the production of triglycerides by 31%, while also raising the body’s antioxidant defenses.

The test meal in this case included turmeric, garlic, oregano, paprika, rosemary and ginger. What a great way to lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes! Check out our recipes and treat yourself to a spicy meal today. Dishes from traditional diets around the world are full of delicious spices and herbs.

Take a Hike.  Another new study on the benefits of walking also caught our attention. University of Missouri researchers asked a group of active volunteers to record their steps. Puttering around normally for three days, the volunteers (average age 29) logged more than 10,000 steps a day – an amount widely recognized to support good health. The researchers then asked the volunteers to cut their activity to less than 5,000 steps a day – an amount more typical of most Americans – while eating the same amounts and types of foods. With less activity, the volunteers’ blood sugar spiked 26% after eating, compared to little or no blood swings when they were active.

Keeping blood sugar level reduces your risk of diabetes, and helps keep energy levels steady – which in turn helps you avoid the temptations of the vending machine. I bought a simple pedometer after I read this study, and now find myself walking around the kitchen while I wait for a pot to boil, and taking the stairs instead of the escalator on the way to work. Just a little more movement, worked into my daily life, can make a big difference!

Sip a Little Wine. A third study, published in the March 8 issue of the American Heart Association journal Stroke, looked at more than 83,000 women over a period of 26 years, to compare their drinking habits to their stroke incidence. Like earlier studies showing the benefits of moderate drinking, this one from Brigham and Women’s Hospital here in Boston found that up to one glass of wine a day cut women’s stroke risk. But take it easy – heavy drinkers didn’t benefit more.

All of this simply echoes the Oldways philosophy of the pleasures of the table, traditional diets, and everyday movement. Somehow, however, seeing these three studies within days of each other gave me new inspiration. Gonna go enjoy a little spicy Inzimino with a glass of wine, then walk a mile to my chorus rehearsal. To your health!


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