Archive for December, 2013

sprained-ankle-sprain-6872471-hHave you ever sprained an ankle? Stepped on a nail? Burned your hand on the iron or oven? If so, you’ve experienced inflammation. Inflammation is a normal, healthy response to injury; it is your body’s first “responder.” In the same way that an EMT at an accident scene begins to triage various injuries, your body has a process it goes through to heal itself. Pain, swelling, redness, and a feeling of warmth or heat are all signs of inflammation.

When you get injured, vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels) begins. This allows increased blood flow to the injury site, which is why the injured area turns red and feels warm. Present in the extra blood flowing to the injured tissue are plasma and leukocytes. Plasma provides extra fluid to your injured tissues, which explains the swelling. Leukocytes mop up pathogens and direct the healing process. Finally, the body releases an inflammatory marker that is your pain indicator.

No one likes to feel pain, but if an injured area didn’t hurt, you’d be tempted to keep using it and then your body would not have the time it needs to heal itself. In a nutshell, all of these sensations are annoying and painful, but necessary for proper healing. Picture in your mind an inflammation “light” switch. When you’re injured, your body flips it on. When you’ve healed, your body flips it off.

HOWEVER, if the inflammation response doesn’t flip off after the injury heals, bigger issues emerge. Instead of being an acute response to an injury, inflammation becomes a chronic, on-going problem. In the same way you don’t leave all the lights on in your house 24/7 because (a) you don’t need them on, and (b) it would be expensive; you don’t want your inflammation response switch stuck in the “on” setting. The inflammation process breaks tissue down before building it back up; if it is never turned off, it will start to target healthy tissue. What causes the switch to get stuck in the “on” position in some people?

Diet. Repeated intake of processed carbs, trans fat, sugar, and sodium in foods may trigger inflammation.

Not enough Omega 3’s. Healthy fat from fish helps reduce inflammation.

Lack of sleep. Getting too little sleep, for a variety of reasons.

Not being physically active. Sedentary behavior is strongly linked to inflammation.

Stress. Sustained stress requires constant, physiological inflammation response.

Tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Ditto. Sustained use of both requires constant, physiological inflammatory response.

Why is long-term inflammation a problem?
The unrelenting urge to heal keeps the body in a constant state of repair. There are serious consequences to this dilemma. Your “regular” immune response, which would normally handle your daily exposure to bacteria, viruses, and fungus, is compromised because it is too busy dealing with the inflammation. It’s sort of like when a mother has a second child and is so busy tending to the baby that she has no time to supervise the older toddler. Eventually there is going to be a major meltdown or crisis. Long term inflammation in the body can lead to conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke, chronic fatigue or pain, and cancer.

How can you tell if you have chronic inflammation?
A CRP (C-Reactive Protein) test will tell you and your doctor if you have chronic inflammation. It is not a test that is automatically included in, say, a blood-lipid profile; it must be specifically requested.

What should you do to help yourself reduce inflammation?Brent Bauer, an internal medicine physician for the Mayo Clinic, says that “inflammation diets that advise us to avoid certain foods are very similar to the Mediterranean Diet. If we choose fruits, vegetables, olive or canola oils, plenty of fish, and very little red meat, we’ll be fairly healthy, and possibly experience less inflammation.” Also, try to reduce stress, increase sleep time, and get moderate amounts of physical activity. Too much intense exercise can actually increase inflammation.

Written by:
Donna Green, BS, MA
Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewed by:
Liz Smith, M.S., RDN, L.D.
Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension



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When we hear PEACE – we think “Peace on Earth” or “Peace within our family” or “Peace between countries”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes Peace as “Quiet and tranquility” or “Harmony in Personal Relationships”. Let’s think about how we can have personal PEACE in our lives.

Young woman on sofa.

P – Use the P to remind you to spend time with the People who mean the most to you. This is likely your close family members and a few special friends. Think about when was the last time you called or wrote a card to your grandparents, great aunt, or other aging family member.  Are you spending your work time with people you “like”? Try making a new work friend – someone you can eat lunch with or grab a drink or coffee with after work.

 E- The breath cycle actually begins with Exhale, so the longer the exhale, the deeper the inhale. This will often help you to relax and reduce stress. For more information on this check out the resources on Mindfulness below.

A – Think of Anticipation with the letter A. Research in the field of neuroscience has shown that the part of the brain responsible for feeling pleasure is activated when we just think about doing something we enjoy, or anticipate it. Consider thinking about eating your favorite dessert or traveling to an exotic location, daydreaming about it is actually good for you. Remember when you were young you probably daydreamed about all kinds of exciting things, what is stopping you now? Use that time you are in the car to daydream about something you anticipate doing and don’t spend too much time anticipating something bad happening – like a plane crash when you are flying.

C – Check-off, make a list and check-off items as you finish them. Completing items on a list (be it a written list or one put in your handheld device) brings success. Choose one system for tracking and stick with it for the most success with completing tasks.

E – Think Education with the final E. No matter what our age, it is important to keep learning. Studies show that engaging in cognitive learning at any age is important. So what are you going to do to learn something new? Read a book, take a class at the community college or your church, join a card or book club, encourage your children to sign up for that course they have been talking about, or sign up for a new opportunity at work.

So what are you going to do to bring about personal peace? I plan to daydream a little more, sign up for that training session I have been putting off, and spend more time with my family.


Mayo Clinic, “Mindfulness Exercises”, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mindfulness-exercises/MY02124.

Social Science Research Network, “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Consider Time”, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1706968.

The Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center, http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/mediaroom/releases/pages/’use-it-or-lose-it’-applies-to-brain,-not-just-body.aspx.

Author: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County.

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Tis the season for chocolate. Most of us love chocolate anytime of the year but from Halloween to Valentine’s Day, chocolate seems to be all around us.Chocolate

Is dark chocolate really good for you? Do the flavanols in chocolate really help you?

Chocolate or cocoa powder does have flavanols. The cocoa bean is a rich source of flavanols which are a group of phytochemicals in food.

However, depending on how the cocoa bean is processed many flavanols can be lost. Flavanols tend to be bitter tasting, so manufacturers roast, ferment, pulverize, and sometimes alkalinize the cocoa bean to improve taste. Thus, it is hard to know how much benefit is in that chocolate piece.

• Consuming a large amount of cocoa flavanols has produced benefits including improved endothelial function (dilation of the artery). This helps blood flow through the arteries and may help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
• Some promises of lowering blood pressure and improving brain function have been seen with consuming large amounts of chocolate.
• Sorry, but chocolate does not help you lose weight. Studies show the more chocolate you eat the more weight you gain.Cocoa

So, how do you get the benefits of the cocoa bean without gaining a lot of weight? Using or eating cocoa powder is your best source. Two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder will provide you with 200 mg of flavanols and about 20 calories. You could try adding it to your coffee, warm milk, oatmeal or yogurt. That is unsweetened, so if you add sweetener the calorie content will jump. To get 200 mg of flavanols you can choose baking chocolate (unsweetened) providing about 70 calories; 1-1/2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips providing 200 calories or 2 ounces of dark chocolate (at least 65%) with 320 calories. Forget milk chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate syrup as they have few flavanols and lots of calories.

Enjoy chocolate in moderation, yes benefits, but also calories.

Author: Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Fayette County

Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County

Schardt, D. [2013]. How bittersweet it is, Nutrition Action HealthLetter, December 2013. 40(10). 8-11.
Zeratsky, K. [2012]. Can chocolate be good for my health? Available at http://mayoclinic.com

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At no other time of the year do most American families gather together for food, family, fellowship, and fun than at the holiday season.  We take off work to travel across the country or across town to gather for memorable moments and to eat delicious food, renew relationships, and watch endless amounts of football.  If you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to listen to grandma or grandpa share stories from the past.  Stories about “How things used to be…” back in their day.

Sometimes, not everyone can make it home though.  You may have a loved-one serving in the Armed Forces or you may have an aging parent or grandparent who can no longer make the trip.  And what about friends or family members in care homes?  Unfortunately, the holiday season can also be a time of loneliness for those who aren’t able to participate in family gatherings.  Reach out to them and share a moment of appreciation and affection.

While we might be drawn into the gift buying of the season, what most people really want and need is to know that they are loved, accepted, and remembered.  Whether it’s via some fancy-shmancy technology or in a sit-down, face-to-face conversation, grandparents can be particularly effective in showing their grandchildren how much they mean to them.  Research with grandparents highlights seven dimensions of grandparenting that bring the generations together.  Here is a brief description of each.

  • Lineage Work:  This refers to grandparents’ efforts to take their grandchildren back in time through stories and experiences from the past.family
  • Mentoring Work:  Is the process of teaching, coaching, or demonstrating to grandchildren skills or knowledge that the grandparent has learned over their lifetime.
  • Spiritual Work:  Refers to grandparents’ willingness to guide, comfort, and console grandchildren and to nurture them emotionally and in good spirit.
  • Character Work:  Is the process of helping grandchildren learn good character and the importance of being an ethnical member of society.
  • Recreation Work:  Refers to the fun and recreational activities that grandparents participate in with grandchildren; from board games to football games and everything in between.
  • Family Identity Work:  Refers to grandparents sharing with grandchildren what it means to be a member of their particular family.
  • Investment Work:  Is the effort that grandparents make to help grandchildren be successful in the future; from sharing resources to helping them find employment to gaining access to educational opportunities.

During your family gatherings this season, consider the impact and importance of bringing the generations together.  By including everyone, all involved (including the parents in the middle generation) will benefit from developing stronger ties with each other.

Writer: James S. Bates, PhD, Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, Family Wellness, Ohio State University Extension.

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.



Bates, J. S., & Goodsell, T. L. (2013).  Male kin relationships:  Grandpas, grandsons, and generativity.  Marriage & Family Review, 49, 26-50.

Bates, J. S.  (2009). Generative grandfathering: A conceptual framework for nurturing grandchildren.  Marriage & Family Review, 45, 331-352.

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The weather outside is very cold and I begin to feel that scratchy throat. I am seeing my daughter’s nose running and hear her squashcomplaining about her ear hurting.  Amidst the holiday celebrations and more contact with friends and family, contagious illnesses are making their rounds.  Besides the number one action of washing our hands frequently, how can we best prepare our bodies to fight off these pesky germs?  The American Institute for Cancer Research has a helpful article, “Deck Your Meals with Fruits and Vegetables.”  What a timely topic!  So what are the recommended tips we should put into practice?

Make sure you are eating the rainbow.

  • Deep orange vegetables like pumpkins, winter squash, and sweet potatoes will provide you with Vitamin A and fiber.  See a great reduced fat recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole below.
  • Red Peppers will provide Vitamin E and Vitamin C while tomatoes will provide Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A).
  • Deep red, purple and blue berries and all the varieties of apples are also rich in antioxidants.
  • Green broccoli, mustard and turnip greens (and others), spinach and brussel sprouts all provide a variety of wonderful vitamins and minerals that keep our body healthier and able to battle infections.

Eat a variety of foods and do not overcook them.

  • Red meats and poultry, whole and fortified grains and breads provide the minerals zinc and selenium that help to build our immunity.
  • Grapes, beans, onions, etc.  are part of the many fresh fruits and vegetables and are nature’s vitamin pills.  In addition to their great taste they help to maintain our healthy lifestyles.
  • Overcooking and boiling our foods causes vitamins to escape and be poured down the drain.

Flavor foods naturally.

  • Ginger is known to fight inflammation and colds.  Other herbs and spices also help to keep our bodies running strong.

These food tips along with regular physical activity and drinking lots of water to keep us hydrated will not prevent every sneeze or sniffle this frosty season, but it should help us to prevent some illnesses and shorten the symptoms of the ones that get us down.

Try this tasty slimmed down version of sweet potato casserole for some great Vitamin A:

Sweet Potato Casserole

Yield: 10 servings


1 pound sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)

3 egg whites

1⁄2 cup sugar

12 ounces evaporated milk, nonfat

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg

1⁄2 teaspoon ginger


1. Rinse sweet potatoes in cold running water and pierce with a fork.

2. Microwave sweet potatoes on full power until tender, about 15 minutes. Turn them half way during baking.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove skin from sweet potatoes and mash with hand beaters or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.

4. Pour mixture in an 8 inch square baking pan. Bake until casserole is firm in the center, about 40 minutes.

5. Remove pan from oven. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then cut into 10 squares.

6. Serve hot. Refrigerate leftovers.

Notes:  You may want to experiment with using canned sweet potatoes.

Sources: Deck Your Meals with Fruits and Vegetables, (2013).  American Institute of Cancer Research.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://preventcancer.aicr.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=17467&news_iv_ctrl=2303

Super Foods for Optimal Health, (2013). WebMD.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health

Sweet Potato Casserole, (2013). United States Department of Agriculture:  SNAP-Ed connection.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/recipes/sweet-potato-casserole

Author:  Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, West Region, spires.53@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Liz Smith, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, NorthEast Region, smith.3993@osu.edu

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I couldn’t help but think watching the usual black Friday riots on TV- what all of our consumerism is doing to our environment, and the quality of life of future generations. What resources are we extracting from the earth so that we can satisfy our children with shiny new toys that lose their luster in a couple of days and wind up in basement? Fortunately, our consumer behaviors can become much more intentional and less wasteful. It is an opportunity to live more “sustainably.”

The concept of sustainable living was introduced to me at a workshop I attended at a national urban Extension conference by colleagues from the other OSU (Oregon State University). I went into the workshop thinking that I was going to be lectured by tree-hugging west coast academics about how damaging my Midwestern lifestyle and values were to the environment. I left the workshop feeling like I had more direction and purpose in life than ever before.

According to Oregon State University, Sustainable Living is defined as “living a life that is deeply satisfying, fulfilling, and appealing – and at the same time, environmentally responsible.” It is NOT living in the woods, eating only berries, guilt driven, not buying anything again, nor gloom and doom. It is deeply personal, intentional, practical, and puts our individual actions in a global context.

Extension offers a free on-line sustainability class at: http://www.extension.org/pages/62201/living-sustainably:-its-your-choice#.Uqdp2vRDspg. The class offers research-based suggestions on how you and your family can live more sustainably (recycling, starting a garden, eating local and organic, etc.). Following the instructions, you will need to create a password and username.

Sustainable living is more than just being aware of our own actions. It is ultimately about rethinking our consumer behaviors so that we can be happier and healthier. When consumerism runs amok we think that we need more stuff to be happy, so we have to work longer hours. As a result, we have less time to do things we really value and end up with junk that only clutters up our lives. During the workshop that I attended, we had to think about what we would save from our living room if our homes were on fire. Such activities really get you to think what is important in life.

Writer: Daniel Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition and Wellness at OSU Extension
Editor: Lisa Barlage, OSU Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences

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We all know that exercise has many benefits and we can quickly list weight reduction, heart health and disease prevention as common positive results of regular physical activity. But don’t stop there. Recent research shows that keeping physically active provides perks in other areas of our lives as well by improving brain function and mental health.

For children, physical activity may help improve academic performance. Moderate to vigorous physical activity was linked to better academic performance across the three major subjects of English, math and science with increased test scores for both boys and girls.

Exercise helps adult mental health as well. Sometimes we make excuses for not exercising because we are too busy or stressed to fit it into our routine. And the holidays can add another layer of stress as well. Hold on a second — there’s good news when it comes to exercise and stress.

walk sign

Physical activity has some direct stress-busting benefits. It helps to bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or a brisk walk, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations.

Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of this can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.

Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, is beneficial to your overall wellbeing. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re downright out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward improving your health. Discover the connection between exercise and mental function — and why exercise should be part of your everyday routine.

Written by: Polly Loy, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Science Educator, OSU Extension, Belmont County, Buckeye Hills EERA

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA


Physical Activity and Health – the Benefits of Physical Activity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 26, 2013 http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/health/index.html#ImproveMentalHealth

Haines, C., MD. Exercise and School Grades – National Library of Medicine. Retrieved November 26, 2013

Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress, May Clinic. Retrieved November 26, 2013

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